Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Power of Love

I was in love with 14 second graders on Thursday afternoon. The alpha cohort of seven year olds, comprised of 13 girls and 1 quite overweight boy, are consistent high performers in my teaching roster.   In fact, they are generally so eager to engage in conversation practice that I had to innovate a lottery system to ensure fair opportunities for participation.  Not only does this save me from the chorus of pleas, it’s also a  game of chance and luck—something that Thai people love.  
At lunch,  my Thai co-teacher mentioned she wouldn't be coming today as she had to cover another class.  “Mai bpen rai (no problem)” I said, "Nakrian dee mahk. (The students are very good).  As we began,  I gave them the end of the school year quiz and was able to answer their questions in sign language and meager Thai.  Afterwards, we played a game.  The students matched  the words in the basket (pulled by the current round of the lucky winner) with the pictures in their hands.   As they lined up at the door at the end of class to say, “Thank you, teacher”,  I high-fived everyone on their way out.  It was one of those moments when everything flows, life is easy and you feel you are exactly where you should be in the Universe.

Later that afternoon, the Director’s daughter Kim invited me to attend a funeral for a student that evening.  Apparently this 14 year old was hanging out with some friends of friends over the weekend.  Gang members were involved on the periphery of the gathering, there was retribution from a previous disrespect, shots were fired and one missed its intended target to enter the young boy’s abdomen.  After three critical days in the hospital and despite a proud blood donation from Jee Jee the ladyboy teacher, the young man died.  I didn’t know him, but I was interested in witnessing  the ceremony.

the temple was just up the road, through the gate pillars with the dragons on the top and the glass building with an enormous Buddha statue facing the road.  As we slipped off our shoes to enter, I noticed the tables piled high with food.  The Director was welcomed with a wai and muted conversation.  We were escorted to the front and seated on couches in the premier spot; a young woman brought us glasses of water. The mother comes to visit with The Director, who hands her a fat envelope.   The boy’s coffin is enormous, green and gold and reaching nearly five feet off the ground.  The coffin is surrounded by plastic evergreen arrangements, each punctuated with a myriad of twinkling colored lights.  His framed school photo is featured to the left, on a pedestal, the somber and uniformed head surrounded by a blue background. It crosses my mind that this might have been the only photo of him that his family had.

A bell gongs. The boy's mother and her supporters take their praying positions in front of the boy's altar.   A man wearing a white t-shirt with a colt 45 logo scurries about and I’m certain he had no idea of the English meaning.  Four monks file into the temple.  The Director, the Man Who Loves the Microphone and the teacher of the second grade alpha cohort are invited to light candles and incense at the three stations in front of the monks.   The mother moves to the boy’s station in front of his coffin and does the same.

The monks begin their prayers. As I sit with my palms together and close to my heart, I begin to meditate in earnest. What can I conjure up that will foster the healing?  An image of a lotus flower comes to mind.  I ask, “what colors” ? Pink, with a touch of lavender, it answers.  With that, images begin to swirl in my mental space as the chanting continues in a rhythmic litany of tones in Pali, the ancient Buddist language.  Colored vapors surround the people in front of the boy.  A carousel of connected lotus flowers undulates around them in slow moving circles.  The image moves and shifts and the entire group is in the center of the flower, with the petals opening and closing to surround them with light, peace, a salve to heal the grief and pain.  It erupts to the ceiling of the open air temple, drifting down to the other teachers, family and friends. lined up in the plastic chairs around the temple    This meditation comes so easily and so powerfully that I recognize that something significant has occurred.  I notice my own contentment and peace as I leave, observing the supporters of the family counting out the donations received from the mourners.

The following day, my classes are cancelled as I’m requested to fulfill my role as Marketing Assistant with the Anuban (kindergarten) open house.  The Director surprises me midway through the presentation to parents and asks me to say a few words in Thai which I stumble through.   The Man Who Loves the Microphone adds a bit of commentary afterwards.  The kindergartners do a series of song and dance revues, abacus demonstrations and public speaking opps.  Afterwards, I walk around and participate in a few projects, saying simple hellos to parents and smiling a lot.   The school bell rings at the end of the day and I’m doing my usual “meet and greet” with the masses of children running, playing, walking to school bus or lining up at canteen for snacks.

Nid, one of the second graders from my Thursday class, runs up and hands me a fabric flower.  I look at it and experience a sudden rush of recognition, validation and wonder from last night's meditation.  I am awed and a bit giggly, humbled and confident. I give her a shoulder hug to my hips. “Of course”, I say to myself, “it has returned.”   Thank you Nid.  Thank you Universe.

No comments:

Post a Comment