It's been a rough few days, yet rewarding for the results which have been achieved, but I am physically drained. I had a couple of stores in mind to choose from for today but the exhaustion is making it difficult to think and as I type this, I am thankful for the spellcheck feature! The following story was the third one I had written, and I am sharing it with you again. I hope you will enjoy revisiting it and I will do my best to have a new story for you next Tuesday!
TO BE HONORED
(3rd in a series-orginally published 11 Jan 2011)
Today's story gives an example of how we honor one another. Sometimes to do so requires we step out a bit from our comfort zone.
Back in the early 1980's, our church sponsored a family immigrating to the US from Laos. Several of us signed up to take turns orienting them to their new home, helping them learn English and the other myriad details it takes for someone adjusting to a culture completely foreign to them. I was single at the time, and signed on to be one of several drivers to escort them to various locations - medical exams, customs, grocery store, various appointments and so forth. The family included the parents, and I think 3 children (I'm not sure of the exact number 30 years later!). It was both fun and awkward, as only the father spoke the most rudimentary English and I understood nothing of what was said when they spoke among themselves. But we laughed a lot and I grew fond of them and could only imagine how it most have felt to have left everything they ever knew, and come to such a different place. They had only been allowed to bring a certain weight per person on the plane, so they valued all that they had brought with them from their homeland.
As I got to know the family better, and they were more comfortable around me, the mother invited me to stay for dinner at the end of one afternoon. I knew that this was a big honor and I agreed and while she prepared the meal, I played with the children. When the time came, I was seated and the food was passed to me to put on my plate first. Bits of meat and vegetables and a large bowl of noodles were passed around and we settled down to eat. As I raised my fork (they used chopsticks) I realized they were admonishing me - "No, no!" - and making motions for me to stop. As I did, the father handed me a bottle, motioning that I was supposed to sprinkle the contents all over my food before eating. As I took the bottle and opened the top a strong fish odor almost made me gag. It was fermented fish sauce, and I found out later that they eat it on almost everything. They had brought it with them from Laos and had brought a new bottle to the table just because I was there. I hesitatingly sprinkled a bit on one area of the noodles on my plate and they, thinking I was being polite, gestured laughingly "No, no! More!". The children joined in, everyone waving their arms and laughing until I had put enough on my food to suit them. Then they in turn applied it liberally to their food.
Pungent. Extraordinarily pungent! That's the most polite way I can describe it. As I put a mouthful in, I had to literally will myself not to gag and insult them. They were delighted - "Oh, good, good! Ahh!" and I smiled and nodded, and continued to slowly eat, praying constantly that I would be able to swallow the next mouthful. Then the next, and the next, until at last I was finished. As they offered me more, I shook my head, smiling and patted my stomach and they just beamed. I felt like a house divided, smiling and nodding on the outside, wretched and churning on the inside. As the evening drew to a close, and I was making my way to the door, the father said "Wait, please.", turned, left the room and almost immediately returned carrying something carefully in his hands. Then he handed me, almost reverently, my very own bottle of fermented Fish Sauce! I was almost speechless (for several reasons) and all I could say was "Thank you" as they continued to beam and nod their heads.
I was so nauseated for the next 24 hours or so, and it was a combination of being tense as I ate, and eating something so unfamiliar. Of course the nausea passed, but what stayed with me was the lesson they taught me. That bottle they gave me was one of the precious few things they had been able to bring from their homeland and they only had a limited store. They were expressing their gratitude by giving something of great importance to them, and they were genuinely happy to do it. Although I never opened the bottle, it stood as a reminder that no matter how little you have, when you give from your heart, the gift becomes precious and both the giver and the receiver are honored. I laugh now about the story, but I am thankful I had the experience!