I am now human….well in the eyes of some of the children now. The other evening, I was sad…and upset, the "why" isn’t important (and doesn’t need to be commented on) but the effect of my said sadness was. During our nightly meditation, I was visibly upset, my eyes were red and my voice cracked when I tried to talk.
The children had never seen me this way and they just stared at me. After meditation I walked to my room to chill out and be alone but along the way many of the older kids stopped me to see if I was going to be okay and I assured them that I was. I slept it off and the next morning I awoke refreshed and ready to start the day.
I was not prepared for how the kids looked at me that day.
The little ones used their English skills to remind me of the night before by saying “Melinda Cry”, or “Melinda Cry in Meditation”. I just answered, “Yes, Melinda cried, I was sad, but now I am happy”. They seemed to accept that fine and we started our preschool class. There were a couple of times one of them commented “Melinda cry – Today Melinda Happy”. When the older kids came home from school, they ran to me and asked over and over “Are you okay”. I assured them I was and added that sometimes I am sad, but then I think about it and because I can’t change the past, I have to be happy again.
I thought that would be it…that life would resume as usual…I was wrong.
I noticed a subtle change in many of the kid’s attitude towards me, not a negative change, but more of a realization that I am just like them, that I have feelings and yes, sometimes "Melinda cry". After a year of being silly and serious, funny and firm, a sister figure, a mother figure, a friend, and occasionally -momentarily perhaps- a foe, I was now someone who needs their sympathy. I was now the one who needed a hug and some love.
One young boy and I have a tentative relationship. He probably has one of the most depressing stories (if you can really judge)…being abandoned again and again by those who were supposed to love him; his family, those that were supposed to care for him; his family. His temper goes from 0 to boiling in a matter of seconds. He explodes, but with tears in his eyes. He gets frustrated so easily and I make a conscious effort to not set him off…but, occasionally when I can’t ignore his behavior I have to reprimand him. I know the consequences of my actions…he will pretend I don't exist for days on end while I hurt inside and wish I could help him somehow. This same little guy has the most fantastic smile when he allows himself to have some fun. A smile that lights up his whole face.
Well, my emotional state just threw him for a loop! He has made advances towards me more in the last couple of days than he has in months. He walked by me and said something in Khmer with my name in the phrase and then cracked up at himself (at my expense, I’m sure) but then poked me in the side and I had to laugh along with him. Tonight, he asked me for some more shampoo and when he went into his room to get his refillable bottle, he couldn’t find it. Waiting for the explosion; I held my breath and didn’t enter his room….but, instead, he looked at me and said, “wait”. He found a small plastic container that really wouldn't work, but I didn’t have the heart to say no. As we walked to the office to refill it, he pointed to the full moon and said “moon big”. Because, he rarely if ever tries to communicate in English, I stopped in my tracks and said in a sweet sarcastic voice “Why, Mr. Ya, you speak English?” and he just giggled. When we got to the office, I handed him his plastic thing back and gave him a new little bottle of shampoo and we wrote his name on it – in English and in Khmer.
It was such a wonderful moment, just he and I walking back to the dorms in the light of the full moon. I felt a little apprehensive and hoped the moment would not be interrupted. My hopes came true as when we reached the dorm he told me again “thank you” before going into his room. I wanted to grab him and hug him, but I didn't press my luck and was content in knowing things between me and him may have changed, if not forever...at least for awhile. Patience is one of my strong points and since neither of us are going anywhere, there is time. My relationship with Ya would not have such a nice turnabout had “Melinda not cry”. I would not have received the more than usual hugs, arms around my waist and sniffs (the Khmer version of a kiss!) had “Melinda not cried”.
Yes, Melinda was sad and she cried at meditation, but now I am happy and is thankful for all the wonderful gifts being sad inadvertently brought about. I have once again learned a lesson in letting go and is reminded of a card received by my parents many years ago that stated “Every Challenge is an Opportunity.” Neither they nor I could have imagined how true those words would become in my life.