Recently I came across particularly moving blog via Facebook, Our Own Path written by Kyle and Bessie Crum (which I highly recommend as an inspiring read). The reason I found this post so poignant was the honesty with which the author wrote. Instead of writing about some adventure or sunset (which of course is interesting and important to share!) she wrote about the people in Myanmar who are touching her life. The kind-hearted people who live their lives with such admirable generosity that I was literally moved beyond myself. From a western society wrought with the sense of individuality and a compulsion to succeed materialistically, this amazing sense of community and giving beyond one’s self is remarkably touching and somewhat foreign.
I remember my first encounters of such giving here in South Korea, and it was the smallest yet most sincere gesture of simply putting someone else first and thinking of their happiness before your own. If you pay attention, these gestures are noticeable in so many ways. Quietly observing people here, I see it. I have to say, I do sometimes question it – the motivation behind it – is it purely a sense of duty and conditioning, or is this something heartfelt and spontaneous?
I have not had the chance to travel to Myanmar where the blog co-author, Bessie, is writing of, but I do understand what she is talking about.
I noticed a similar sharing in Boracay, the Philippines, a place where tourists are a source of income and a foreigner is a signal for a sale, where the people seemed so alive, so open, so happy yet were clearly struggling financially. Away from the busy beaches where I took my walks, the unity and sharing amongst the people is tangible and I often received invitations into people’s homes; perhaps they were curious of my strangeness, my blonde hair and pale skin, but I would like to think they simply wanted to share, to connect and to be human.
In South Africa, many locals have the same attitude – Ubuntu – a person is a person through people. And one can clearly witness the shared lives in certain communities, that one household is stronger because of another, and that the people around you are more important than your possessions and your own wealth, and through sharing and giving, you make the other, and yourself stronger. So often you do not see this or feel this in the West. We live such estranged lives from our neighbours, we put up high walls to protect ourselves from the outside, granted we feel safer but essentially we are closing ourselves off. We wear head phones on trains, buses and planes to avoid conversations with each other, we bury ourselves in books or newspapers so to avoid the stranger next to us. We strive to set ourselves apart and become more successful, more of an individual and we don’t allow ourselves to be open, and to share with our fellow people and we forget our basic fundamental humaness.
This blog of Bessie and Kyle’s has reminded me of an old conflict I have yet to resolve, is anything in this life worth having if you have no one to share it with? I think of home and the people I love the most and the fact I miss sharing and connecting with them. I miss my family and my brothers and sisters I have not had a real relationship with for years. I am grateful for the fact I can be a part of this community in Korea; as well as the strong bonds that develop with fellow English teachers. The gift is that I get to be a part of their lives for this time and as much as I welcome this, I still feel my own inability to be as open as the people Bessie describes, and furthermore to the strangers around me. I still fear ‘lack’ which is the antithesis of what I believe myself to be; I still do not trust the abundant source of life that we are as much as I would like to. I still fear that I will not have enough, yet of people who have so little, how do they still manage to give so much?