letters-to-charles:

I have consistently found throughout my life that sometimes those who have the least are also the most generous and kind.

The above is a picture of a meal that was prepared for me and two friends when we visited her aunt in a mountain village in Laos. My friend had never seen her aunt and this was the first time they met. My friend’s father and her aunt had been separated when they were kids due to war and this was the first time she would reconnect their family. It was really a beautiful moment to witness.

They lived in a small village in the foothills of looming mountains and rice fields and grazing cattle. Electricity came from two gasoline generators and was limited to only some households and even then it was spotty at best; this home had one light which died midway through our visit and we had to use candles. 

Everything in our meal was grown and prepared from start to finish by this family. The prized chicken they killed they raised themselves, the rice a total of 5 months from seed to harvest, the herbs in our soup grown outside in the front yard, and the water drawn from a spring and boiled before being served.

Before we could make our 2 hour trip by truck back to the city word had spread that there were visitors from outside in the village. Soon enough people were asking to see us. We made one last trip to another family who would not take no for an answer before we left.

This family had just came in from working their fields. At this point it was after sunset and the night was pitch black except for the occasion flickering bare light bulb or candles. They were still wearing their farm clothes, covered in dust and sweat. Everyone from baby to mother and father leaves for their fields miles away before sunrise each day and return after sunset.

The smiles on their faces when we came to their house I will not forget. They didn’t have much. I could tell that even by the village standards they were among the poorer. Their house was made from dried bamboo planks and palm weaved into walls with cracks that allowed peeks of the inside. The roof was covered with thatch made from dried straw and leaves.

The whole family stayed up past their bedtime asking us so many questions and complementing us repeatedly about how good our language skills were even though we were born in America. Finally, though, we had to say our farewells and my heart was filled with the kindness shown to me by strangers.

One last thing that the mother of the family said as we left has stayed with me and I think it will for a long time.

Mus zoo, peb tsis muaj hmoov es peb tsis txawj peb tsis ntse. Dabsi thaum nej mus kawm thiab nej mus txog lawm los yeej zoo li peb mus txog lawm thiab.

Go well, we have no luck nor do we have any skills or intelligence. But when you have finished your studies and have arrived at the door of success it will be as if we have arrived with you too.

What I found most powerful about the story was the invocation of collective struggle and progress, on how the success of one individual reflects the success of the community that the person represents. After all, it takes a village to raise a child. Thanks to @letters-to-charles for sharing.

-Jeffrey

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