Week 5: seeing

Years ago, during a night in the city of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, I had an ever so small encounter that, for whatever unknown reason, has left a lasting emotional impact. 

I meandered through a crowded night bazaar with sidewalk shops and stands, enjoying the evening and people watching (as I always did without buying anything). I walked by a mother with her young daughter selling some simple bracelets along the sidewalk in a crowded area of the bazaar. Seeing women and children sell bracelets, trinkets, and souvenir items is a fairly common sight in many major cities in Thailand (and many other countries for that matter), especially in thick tourist areas. Initially I walked past, as I usually would, but suddenly felt the sense to turn around. 

So, I turned around, approached, and kneeled down in front of them, saying hello to the woman and her baby, asking their names as best I could in Thai. The baby smiled the most beautiful smile that would melt the heart of the fiercest god. The woman, who had one blind eye, began to light up and smile as I tried to speak Thai with her and her little girl. Somehow my heart was drawn to this mother and daughter, sitting on the concrete sidewalk, selling bracelets worth less than a dollar. In that brief moment I felt so much love and compassion, without knowing why. I was drawn, pulled, by some unknown force. I bought two small bracelets (something I would never do), smiled, and before I left said, “God bless you” in English.              

After walking away into the main bazaar, I sat down for a moment to reflect on what was suddenly beginning to bring tears to my eyes.

There was something about that moment… I don’t think she has much or makes barely any money selling bracelets, and I sure didn’t change that. But I turned around, and I made her 30 baht (around $1) richer. I blessed her in some small way and attempted to really see her, not just look at her. This is what it’s all about — not the travel or sights or personal experiences; it’s about seeing others, not just yourself, in these moments. Her and her baby are so beautiful, not to be pitied, but loved. I can’t get them out of my mind. These bracelets will be a reminder — it’s about others and the little things we do for them, and most importantly, choosing to see them, and choosing how we see them.

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