Sunday, November 02, 2008

Sacred Life Sunday: Coming Through the Rain....

Thanks to all of you for your wonderful comments on my last post. Thanks for assuring me that it wasn't "stupid" to open up in such a personal way. You might not believe this ~ but I do pay attention to what you say. :)

This past month hasn't been a great one and suffice it to say that I came close to losing hope a few times. As you can imagine, there's not much life force without hope.

I'm not a score keeper in the traditional sense ~ but in my private life, I notice who is around when times get rough and who is not. I had some rude awakenings.

The same people are around all the time. As I've mentioned here, most of my fledgling community has been formed among the Lao people in my area. They are wonderful, warm, loving and generous people and I'm honored to know them and get to know them better. They have a comforting practicality along with a generous spirit that warms me. All the time. They have taught me some very valuable lessons, too, which I'll probably write about here in the fairly near future.

One of them came through for me in a very important way on Friday. It involved a sudden long drive to another city and a hurried transaction but this is something that didn't have to take place by current cultural standards. But it did.

A friend from the Lao community bought me a car.

Yes. A car.

They ain't cheap!

Naturally, I am going to pay her back as we agreed. That amount of money shouldn't be a gift from a working person who struggles like everyone else. We discussed it and agreed on pay-back terms. At the same time, there's something else I want to talk about that has nothing to do with the car specifically. I didn't nearly lose hope because of a silly car. I'm not that shallow. I lost hope because I was coming to believe there was no hope for ever getting past the separation and the nature of the social contract here which is "you're on your own". If you sink, so sorry, it's a terrible thing but that's just how it goes. Perhaps this will make me look weak in Western eyes ~ but it's too brutal for me. I'm not a cowboy sort of girl. I need the safety net of community. Without that, my life is totally and completely meaningless. The hard, cold truth is that I don't want to be here if life has to be that way.

M and her community have a very practical approach. Basically it is "I have it right now and you don't. I'll share it with you. When I need it, you'll share it with me."

That's a very sound social contract and one that makes all of us comfortable. The unspoken rule in this, of course, is "you'd better come through when it's your turn."

I think it would serve everyone well to adopt M's and her community's way of life. Imagine what it would be like if we helped each other in these simple ways. All of our lives would be so much better. This might sound facile on the surface but if you go a few layers deeper, you'll see that it's really not. It's the substance and core of life. The coming together, the sharing, the good and the bad, just the vicissitudes of life.

Over this past month and those few times I nearly lost hope, I remembered what a dark place that is. I've been there before in 2004 and consider myself lucky to have come out of it at all without following my father's footsteps.

Because that's the brutal truth of it. I wanted to die. I felt alone, abandoned and irrelevant.

I'm not given to melodrama. This is serious. Perhaps it's an exhortation of sorts because I know who could have helped and didn't. And I know we could all be doing better, including me. I know who couldn't and wanted to. And I know who did. The latter two are the ones who keep me going, who keep me rising out of bed each day and trying to exist with as much integrity and honor as possible, no matter how the outside world might look.

It's renewed my desire to give to others again, to be more generous with my own resources and to remain rooted into what I believe is the purpose of our material existence. I was beginning to pull back because it seemed that I was the only one who cared in that way. Thank God I didn't allow that callus to form. I got closer than I like to admit.

Something unrelated: Anyone have any plans for Election Night? I've decided to go get a big combination platter of Thai food and visit with a few people on the phone that evening to compare thoughts on the incoming results.

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19 comments:

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

I couldn't agree more with the ideals of m and her community. Life is for sharing and relationships are for give and take.

As far as Election Night goes - I'll be canvassing (reminding supporters to go vote and see if they need rides) from 9 - 8, taking a break from 1 - 4 to check in on C, who will be home. D and I are planning to be at the polls at 6:15, so we can vote and be at our canvass point by 9. So... I think Election Night will involve dozing off. A lot. ;-)

Maybe we'll get Thai food, too. We love it, and we'll deserve it after the long day!

Anvilcloud said...

WOW! About the car.

Mind you, the platter sounds good.

Border Explorer said...

I'm inclined to believe that is why Jesus could say "Blessed are the poor." Very happy you were blessed with this tangible support.

No plans for election day. Maybe I ought to make some.

Olivia said...

Chani, I am so glad for you, for all of the good things that have happened. My thoughts are with you, Peace and love, O

Brandi said...

my parents/husband and I were just discussing something sort of related to this topic.

how it seems to us that there is a prevalance in US society to take advantage of that which is given. Case in point-hawaii decided to provide universal health care for children in 2007 and bankrupt the program in about 7 months because even those who could afford insurance for their children took the free services.

and I firmly believe that in many ways we (collectively) are raising a society of victims. People that take and don't even think to give back. I am not accusing anyone-I am making an overall observation and understand that still, it comes down to the individual.

but I think that may have something to do with the whole 'your on your own' mentality. Part of it is the I want what I want and don't want to give back that I mentioned above. Part of it maybe is the reaction to giving and not being given in return.

I personally think that while individuality is good, it is good in the sense of the individual creating and contributing within their community. adding their special gifts to community of other individuals that add their gifts.

thailandchani said...

Jen, I wish I could drive people to the polls, too! That's a wonderful idea. I didn't have the car soon enough to sign up.

Yes! Get some Thai food! We'll make it a Thai food night for election eve! LOL

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Anvil, the particular restaurant where I go has a large platter for 12.95 that usually lasts me for two or three days. It's awesome!

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BE, Jesus was definitely a promoter of community ~ in the classic sense. He would be appalled at what many have chosen to do with God's gift of life!

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Olivia, thanks. :)

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Brandi, this could be a post in itself. My comment's going to be long and I hope you come back to see it. :)

Honestly.. and frankly.. I don't think you can teach people from infancy that the purpose of life is to "maximize self-interest and learn to recognize and take advantage of opportunities" (quote is from some macroeconomics book.. many years ago) and then get mad because they do it.

That program in Hawaii is a prime example. People were doing what the culture taught them to do.

So... to get mad at them now is like getting mad at a cat for meowing.

Better we all create and choose for our own small communities a different way of life where that isn't the highest value.

Unfortunately, this last situation in my life has left me with some residual anger. It's my job to get over it, true, but I'm just stating it for what it is. I've been deeply hurt by this culture too many times to put a pretty face on it.

Thanks for telling me your observation though. I think you're right.. and it's escalating into perfect hell.

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heartinsanfrancisco said...

One of the hardest things for me to master in our macho culture is allowing others to do for me. While I know exactly where its roots lie, it is still a struggle.

I hope you understand that in allowing M to be there for you, you not only obligated yourself to return the favor, as you stated, but you also gave her the gift of being needed and fulfilling her own purpose on the material plane.

It sounds as if everybody is the better for this transaction. Life could be wonderfully simple if we all behaved like that toward one another.

thailandchani said...

Susan, I have that struggle, too. I prefer to do many things for myself because, again, the social contract is unpredictable. It's getting easier now... having been exposed to other things. Now I'm willing to take the risk of letting others do for me. In a way though, I want to know for certain that they will let me do for them also. It's not score-keeping. It's just that energetic give and take that makes living worth something.

As you said, it fulfills all of us, gives us purpose and happiness to do for each other.

I don't want to live a life without that. The thought is too depressing.

~*~

Carol said...

Reading what M did, I am touched. I'm not sure that I've seen much of that kind of community and generosity, but I know that it's possible.


Thanks for sharing your experience. It's nice to be reminded of what life can look like.

As for election night, I think that Thai food is a good idea! We have a place that will deliver. Drool. Drool.

Brandi said...

(((chani)))

totally get what you are saying.

I think we agree. I wasn't 'mad' at anyone-we were discussing exactly your point-that we are raising these cultural 'norms'.

though I do find it frustrating.

another example. Someone told me that I should look up the term 'cultural creative' as they believed me to be one. So i looked it up and according to the wisdom of the internet, cultural creatives are considered 'fringy' in that they don't tend to follow traditional (wester) religions, tend to question more, be 'do-ers', and are concerned with animal/human rights, environment, education etc.

I commented, sarcastically, that I thought it was pretty effed up that caring about human rights or the education of our children would be considered 'fringy'. lol.

FranIAm said...

What news! A car- that is great.

Generosity is about giving and receiving... yes you will pay your friend back, but your heart had to be open to receive as well.

I am really pleased for you.

As for election night- no plans and my husband is working. I think that it is overdue for me to try the new Thai place (the ONLY Thai place in the immediate area) for takeout and then watch the results.

painted maypole said...

that's wonderful, and that attitude of sharing is something we all need to adopt. imagine how the world could be....

Molly said...

Glad you have some people in your life who restore your faith in humanity! I agree that without sharing and community and belonging, life is pretty bleak. We're all cells in the same organism....

Stacia said...

That is so cool about the car!

No plans for election night. I head to bed kind of early these days, but I'll probably turn on the TV during one of my several bathroom trips in the middle of the night.

Stephanie said...

In 2005, we lost a baby and our livelihood within about six weeks time.

Some friends invited us to live in their basement and be a part of their family for as long as we needed. We did, and became a part of a community similar to what you are describing. Though it was incredibly difficult on some levels (choosing to care for another person's sick child, for example, knowing you will become sick yourself, is a sacrifice, especially when you don't have children) it was also very rewarding.

It took us about a year to become financially autonomous again, and in that year we were overwhelmed by the kindness of friends and strangers. We honestly could not have made it without their help. And now we try to pay it forward, so to speak, whenever an opportunity arises.

People were not designed to make it "on their own." Life without the love and support - sometimes financial, sometimes emotional - of others is impossible and unnatural.

Stephanie said...

In 2005, we lost a baby and our livelihood within about six weeks time.

Some friends invited us to live in their basement and be a part of their family for as long as we needed. We did, and became a part of a community similar to what you are describing. Though it was incredibly difficult on some levels (choosing to care for another person's sick child, for example, knowing you will become sick yourself, is a sacrifice, especially when you don't have children) it was also very rewarding.

It took us about a year to become financially autonomous again, and in that year we were overwhelmed by the kindness of friends and strangers. We honestly could not have made it without their help. And now we try to pay it forward, so to speak, whenever an opportunity arises.

People were not designed to make it "on their own." Life without the love and support - sometimes financial, sometimes emotional - of others is impossible and unnatural.

thailandchani said...

Brandi, unfortunately,..... here.... that is considered "fringy". I also read Cultural Creative because someone told me the same thing. Truthfully, I'm not a CC though for a variety of reasons. There's a vast difference between a Creative and a dissident. It's that fire in the belly that makes us exhort rather than comfort. I find it hard to comfort people about things I know they can change if they'd choose to. Dissidents aren't always well-liked because we'll say out loud the things that others believe should be unspoken.

You're right that it's effed up. Those things should be natural concerns.. but not in a trendy way. They should be so fundamental and foundational that it wouldn't require a New Age author to write about "Cultural Creatives".

I find it horribly frustrating, too. This morning, a blogger wrote something that really struck me.. I'll probably quote her in another post... because she hit on a key point so clearly that it was blinding.

She was saying that we need to be careful about getting "addicted" to the frustration and anger... and her point is well-taken. At the same time, it's hard to settle down and take it lightly when there's so much at stake.

Thanks for dialoguing with me on this. :)


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thailandchani said...

Carol, I don't think any of us have seen enough of it. I hope everyone will eventually choose to create it.

Great on the food! Let me know how you like it. :)

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Fran, thanks. :) Try the restaurant! Why not? :) There is some good Thai food out there, as long as they don't Americanize it too much. Real Thai food isn't very sweet. Some of the restaurants make it sweet because they believe farangs (foreigners) require plenty of sugar.

BTW, I will be spending the Thanksgiving holiday serving food at a local Catholic church. They feed people once a week. I'm really glad they're going to allow me.. even though I'm not a member of their church.

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PM, I imagine it all the time.. and keenly feel the disappointment when people choose differently.

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Molly... bleak. Exactly. Perfect word.

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Stacia, (beautiful name!) glad to see you surfacing :) I admit to being too addicted to check during potty breaks. There's no way I'll be able to turn the TV off Tuesday night. :) It's an old college habit. We used to make a big deal out of election night.

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Stephanie, thanks for the hope. Your story does give me that... hope.. that people can choose differently.

I'm unhealthily bitter right now.

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Bonnie said...

Hello, thanks for visiting my journal and leaving a comment. Curious how you found me? :-)