I went to Thailand for the first time, totally unaware of the injustice I was about to face, I would add. That oblivion was a gift though because surely I wouldn’t have gone if I knew what I was about to face. Why? Because my life in America did not yield that type of dialogue. I wasn’t taught to be “comfortable” having uncomfortable conversations. I wasn’t taught that just because something didn’t directly affect me and was out of the scope of my immediate understanding…that I in fact could be an ambassador for change in someone’s life. That it in fact does directly concern me.
You see, I was born in Connecticut. To two parents in a family that didn’t have a lot but had more than millions and millions and millions of others in the world. While maybe it wasn’t always financial resources that we had I had the english language that was taught to me freely and readily. I had access to not just one but many hospitals if I needed them covered by insurance. School was free to me, even when I didn’t want to go…it was available. Books, and knowledge and job opportunity. I was known by my country, I had clothes and the ability to call 9-1-1.
I was born in america. I did NOTHING, NOTHING to control that.
Rewind to my first time walking the city of Chiang mai. Literal huts made of natural resources are home to thousands of people. School is NOT free in fact it far surpases the families ability to provide in many instances so many children go uneducated, leading to…you guessed it illiteracy. Then inevitably- total risk and vulnerability. It all hit me when I realized that I was in one of the worlds hubs for Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation. Not because I heard stories but because I saw. I saw it on the streets, I saw it in my job, I saw it in their eyes.
It ALL changes, it ALL changes when it goes from seeing seas of people to seeing it in one set of eyes.
Years went by and my months in Thailand continued. The experiences built and I learned that many people I interacted with though born in Thailand had no rights at all. Though a “citizen”, they held zero access to the resources that I have access to by just being “born in a place”. They did nothing, nothing, nothing to control that.
There are thousands of stories I could tell, literally. However this one has resound in my heart every day since.
We were making butterflies out of coffee liners at a craft day. I was speaking Thai, my second language and asked everyone around the table to write their name. There was one of the children’s moms at the table and she responded to me in Thai “kien mai pen”, I cannot write. I said oh that’s fine, you can write it in your native language. My heart dropped, “Mai Pen Duay”, I can’t do that either. She nervously smiled and I remember wanting to fall to my knees as here I was this young 20 something year old speaking a second language totally, humbly, serving this woman in one of the most heart wrenching ways imaginable. Showing her how to write her name . Giving her identity on paper.
It shouldn’t be this way. It shouldn’t be just because of where she’s born and where im born that there is such a huge divide. It shouldn’t be that where she lives prohibits her from growth, in any and all areas of her life. That her inability to write, her hometown, her language literally closes doors to her in the ways of schooling, medicine and employment.
Then it hit me, as it did many times before I don’t have much in the way of financial resources, but my english language is one of the most powerful tools that you and I hold. The english language that just like an essence can make its way into office buildings, homes, churches, schools… To bring light and truth to the very question…”Why is it my problem?”
I would say this. Sit with the fact for a second that in a change of events, that woman who faced illiteracy who is literally unable to work and will be turned away from a hospital and at higher risk of human trafficking…could have been you. Thankfully it’s not however….ill share with you this, since I cant give you all the opportunity to look directly in their eyes.
For as little as $6 you can come alongside a family who literally cannot afford even that, to send their child to school. That $6 drastically reduces the chances that that child will be human trafficked. I will begin to gather lists of numbers that tangible, that are manageable to show you that. While I hope you meet these people, you probably never will. I hope that you feel even for a second you have looked this community in the eyes. The resources available to us here truly, and deeply as little as $6 can turn a community upside down and oh how easy it is for us to replace that $6 here in America. Yet how impossible it is for them to access it…there.
Colby and I don’t believe in enabling, we believe in empowering. Skill training, advocacy, education, rehabilitation the list goes on. When you come alongside someone anywhere in the world, not from a place of power but in humble servanthood, really as a partner to change in that way, the whole world strengthens. When we use the resources that truthfully we don’t deserve and just make a few intentional changes everything shifts.
She’s not your daughter, he’s not your son, she’s not your sister, he’s not your brother. They are someones though and I know fully that my English Language and my resources are powerful, ground breaking tools and I have the choice every second on how I use them. How powerful it would be if together we realized how transformational it would be if even just a small way…we made this our problem.
In 2020 Gather will be financially supporting organizations that we worked closely with in Thailand to continue the work that we were a part of during our time there! However, in this season of giving and with Giving Tuesday not far away we wanted to give you the opportunity to come alongside them with us!
We want to bring this dialogue to the table, we want to answer questions that people don’t talk about, tell stories not commonly heard! We want to make this table of our spread across nations, and we are inviting you to join us! This is just the beginning.
Your FREE meal time-planning guide is coming to your inbox soon! Cheers to sitting at the table with a smile on your face instead of coming with that last dish 15 minutes late, again!