When Thailand first started to become an important part of my life, I did all the things that everyone else does. I bought lots of guidebooks. I scoured and devoured the Internet sites. I participated in chat rooms. I read every library book I could find on Thailand (Siam) going all the way back to the middle of the 19th century. I live in a city with many colleges and schools and universities and library systems. That's a lot of books. Through the Boston Library Interloan System I had books brought in from all over the United States. I looked for local Thai clubs to join. I tried to sleep at night with Learn-to-Speak Thai tapes playing. I hung out in Thai restaurants. I brushed off my 30 year old text books from college on Buddhism and Asian art. I made Thai friends or tried to. I bought souvenirs in Thailand and displayed them in my office. I rented all three versions of The King and I at the local video store. I watched every movie I could find that had Thai themes or landscaping. I bought obscure Thai music CD's including one of elephants playing music. I wore my custom made shirts and shoes and ties to the office every day. I cut pictures of Thailand out of my books and decorated letters that I sent to friends. I tried to get the Thai embassy in New York to interview me for a job. I tried to get large international firms in Thailand to interview me for a job. But still, something was missing from the farang-Thai experience. It all seemed like skipping a stone across the surface of water. Trivial.
Then I adopted two Thai foster daughters. It was what I had been looking for. Something that would add humanity to the experience. I adopted one girl who was 5 through the Christian Children's Fund, and I adopted one girl who was 6 through Childreach International. I got a list of all the Thai holidays. There are a lot of Thai holidays. Plus there are the children's birthdays. I send donations or letters or gifts to both children on all the holidays and of course on their birthdays. I try to time the letters so that they get there at the right time. It is difficult to do. I have pledged to them in writing that I will never let them down and I won't. I love my connection with these two human beings. With their sponsor organizations help they write back to me. It doesn't amount to much but it is the thought that counts. I have visited one of the girls and her family and village twice and I have visited my other foster daughter and her family in their village once. Their living conditions are horrific. There are refugee camps with more dignity, and hygiene, and pride, and order. But the experience always brings tears to my eyes. Both girls have saved every letter and gift that I have sent to them and both girls have my picture on the wall where they sleep. Their relationship with me gives them 'face' and makes them feel special. And, they don't know it yet; but this man in their life will never abuse them. A Bangkok office translator accompanies me on these visits so that it is possible to talk to these girls and their families. I am treated with respect. I have never been dunned for money.
So if you are looking for a way to add a human element to your connection to Thailand, you might consider donating some of your time, and your energy, and your good intentions in a charitable way through a foster child program. The organizations allow you to choose ages, genders, and levels of participation. The two organizations that I have been associating with set the standard for ethical, loving, and charitable behavior. And without them, I would not have been able to add to my life by adding these two Thai people to my life.
Sayings like 'Be all you can be' and 'Follow your bliss' are popular and endemic in western cultures where sanctity of self intersects with capitalism practically and profitably. But there is more opportunity in life than the pleasures of materialism and amusement. Take a personal trip inside yourself and you may be amazed to find that the only thing that has been saved in the marrow of your soul is the time you spent with other human beings. Can you forget your self long enough to open up like a clam and give and receive love? Can you feel time stop when you look into the eyes of a child? Can you still hear a child's voice even when a beautiful Thai women is capturing you with her shadow? Can you imagine a world bigger than what you can grab or eat? Can you read a night time storybook to a group of Thai children and feel your heart slowing down and the tears welling up in your eyes? Well, if you can do all of these things, or if you can imagine doing all of these things you are not lost. Now it is time for the next step.
Consider adopting a Thai child through a charitable foster child organization. You'll be glad you did. And so will the child. And so will the child's parents. And so will . . . good intentions followed by good actions are like the pebble thrown into the pond. Your singular action is followed by ripples and actions that spread out and travel far. When Mother Teresa was placing a cool cloth on a hot brow in India that was all she was thinking about. But the effect of her good intentions one human at a time became something global. There is more to the world than Chaos theory, the new toy of Western intellectuals. There is also a theory of Love: karma, ying-and-yang, dana in Buddhism, etc. We are all connected in ways beyond our understanding and none of us are smart enough to know what baggage will be kept on the train, and what baggage will be thrown from the train before we get to the last stop.
If you are sitting next to your Thai adopted child in Thailand watching them write or draw I guarantee that time will stop for you. You will be looking at their small hands, and their fingers, and their forearms and cogitating on simple things. If you can summon any intelligent philosophic thoughts you will be considering the Life Force and how we all fit in to the grand picture.
Please consider becoming a foster father to a Thai child. You can become an anchor, and an oasis of reliability in their sometimes lonely, and confusing, and frightening lives. You can become special. Because they are special.
© Dana. All rights reserved by the author.