Thursday, May 11, 2017

twenty nine. Ukrainian Immigrant.

When I was little people used to bring my grandmother angel statues of all shapes and sizes. She loved what angels meant and I loved the anticipation of seeing which new one would sit on the coffee table with every visit. The size of the wings always caught my attention. I used to imagine that angels with the smaller wings and less feathers could fly faster, but the ones with the huge big white wings could go longer and carry people on them after they died and went to heaven. I remember being at her house and looking at all of these little angels hanging on walls and sitting on all the tables inspired with mystery and curious if they were around me at that very moment, looking after us like some say. I would shut my eyes very fast then open them quickly, trying to trick the angels to see if they only disappeared when our eyes are open, but I never caught one. 

Maybe this is why I still believe in them; why on days like today when a woman walked off the train on the way to Montreal, I felt like I just caught one. 

I couldn’t sleep the night before and on the way to the train station I was telling my freind how my sleep patterns for my whole life have become exhausting. I can’t figure them out and worry, wonder, or a hyper imaginative mind often wake me up and tie me to the dawn sooner then I would like most days.
Worry is what woke me up last night, and hints of lasting pain after meeting a loved one again in my dream. 

Am I where I need to be? 
Will I find what I need? Will I be healthy enough to see it? 
Am I making good choices? Am I living out my purpose so I can serve this world and make it better? Why is respect and kindness so hard to figure out on the whole? Why do people who are suppose to love us hurt us? Why do we hurt them? What will happen in the USA the next 4 years? How can help alleviate that suffering?
Why do I care? Why, Why, Why? 

These questions dragged on me through the morning and found their way to my chest as I waited for the 9:18 am train to Montreal. 
One of my greatest challenges in life is to constantly be moving on trains, planes, cars, boats, traveling the world- but to still find a steadiness inside of me that provides stability despite travel and change.
So, as my brain swarmed I sat on the bench outside of the train station in the cold hoping it would help me be more present and grounded. I closed my eyes and breathed in as deep as I could focusing on the cold air filling my lungs, and the smell of winter leaving this place like a snail. I paid attention to the sound of the train coming and my heart beat in relation to it. After a few minutes, I was able to slow down and a few tears fell in surrender.

I stayed parked on that bench for as long as I could working to be the last to board and feeling resentful at god that I couldn't take the cold air inside the steal box train car. 
As I walked in towards my seat an ordinary older lady sat in 15A staring out the window. I smiled- I was glad that whoever was there would match my need for gentleness that day. I plopped down next to her in the checkered maroon seat and made it a point to wish her a good morning and ask her how she was doing today. 

She said she was wonderful. I smiled back noting that wonderful was a great state to find yourself in. 

I took another deep breathe. 
She leaned back in her seat and took my hand in hers. I was surprised, but not uncomfortable since I often want to do this with strangers and sometimes do. 
“You are a very special person” she said.

Now I was surprised. I blushed and laughed a little before saying thank you and asking her why she would say that.
She went on to talk about my eyes being the brightest ones she has seen in years and from the moment she saw me in the train station she could tell, I was different from others- “Here for a purpose. I am so proud of you, without even telling me I know you have done a whole lot in such a short time." She said.

These. words. 
Reminders, gentle kisses, soft nudges, gifts. 

I reached under the seat and put the book down I was planning to read. I turned towards her and unloaded the many questions I always seem to have waiting for some people I meet; prying to know more about who she was and where she came from.

A Ukrainian immigrant after the World War II she found herself in a province in Canada at 21 with two boys and an abusive husband.A man who always made her feel small no matter what she did. “Now I know he was scared of me. If he didn’t put me down, then others would surely steal me away. So, he made me feel small every chance he got, so I would be small-  too small to leave.”  Finally, he left her for another woman and she and her boys set off to build a life without so much anger. A "refreshing tragedy' she told me it was and a time that defined her. She only cared about loving her boys and providing them with many experiences so the abuse wouldn’t define them.  She worked for the local government to issue passports and birth certificates in a nice office with nice people for 25 years. The boys became men and are now grown and successful in their own right, although she worries about ones marriage. Her sense of connection she feels for her granddaughters was touching. Her sense of pain she feels at the way her daughter-in-law treats the family was heartbreaking. Her willingness to share so much of her truth with me was humbling. 
As the trees whipped by us through the windows so did the years of her life go by just as quickly, only the meaning behind the most vibrant memories emerging to tell a story of raw life. 

She stopped a few times in between her tales to remind me that my eyes were so beautiful- that the kindness she saw in them was rare.
After the 4th time I felt like she was doing it because she sensed I wasn’t really believing what she was saying. I was taking it and letting it roll off into the aisle rather then seep into my skin where it could stay for awhile and possibly become true. I worked that time to let it sink in. She squeezed my hand.

As the french conductor came over the speaker to explain her stop was 10 minutes out we were suddently kicked back into the marroon seats we were sitting in. An hour went by so quickly. 
She turned to me with her hands still holding mine.

"I am not sure what has happened recently or maybe it was long ago, but I can sense your sadness. I suspect it was created from cowards, that’s usually the story. Yet still, you have those eyes and that smile that shines despite it all. I am old, and I have made many mistakes, which is why I know things and one thing I know is when someone has true strength- that shows even when life is not roses. That’s you. 
From an old woman to a young girl I will ask this of you because if we don’t pass things on we are here for nothing. Know that what you need is coming to you. Tenderness, love, respect, success. Don’t settle for less and walk away when those things aren’t there- and that will hurt, but do it anyway. Even if you tried to get rid of your strength, you can’t - it is in every atom-so this is how I know you will be fine.
The same way you seem focused on work- focus on love too. I am sure you have stories like mine so learn from them and take only the pieces from each of them that makes you brighter. Everything will turn out just as you are expecting. 
I am so proud of you already so imagine where you will go now!"

The train stopped and she kissed me on the cheek, hugged me tight, tilted my head to look into my eyes one more time.  She said," I love you" from a place coming well beneath her heart. For a moment in her aged face and under the bright pink blush I saw a reflection of me, that thing that makes us all the same.

She scurried off the train and I sat there for a few minutes soaking up the gratitude for experiences like that on days when breathing in  air needed to be an intentional thing; hard from the large amounts hazy self-doubt and healing.
I looked out the window to see who was picking her up, or if she was walking but she was gone, or maybe I just didn't open my eyes quick enough to catch her. I wonder if her job from god is to go around on trains giving people love and sharing stories. 

I hopped off the train for a few minutes at the next city longing for the cold air again. Breathing felt different this time, more reassured. The conductor ushered me back on after reminding me we would be in Montreal soon with a warm smile. 

Normally, I would have gotten on that train and put my head down to read or distract. I would have read all about the theory of advanced vertical development and how to get there. I would have kept digging for knowledge or words on a page that would somehow make me stronger or better so all the things in my life that I want will manifest.
Instead, there was this Ukrainian woman. A human to remind me everything I need I already have, and everything I deserve is waiting because my strength shines even when I can’t see it. She reminded me of beauty. She was there to hold my hand while she told me about it. 

I  write this on the train right after as not to lose the memory,  8 more stops to go till I reach Montreal. Even without sleep, what an exciting life to live.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

twenty eight. False Realitites.

This is who I AM!! he screamed!
This is who I AM, he sighed
This. is. me. 
This is who I AM, he cried 
All I can be. 
This is who I AM the silence echoed
….it’s me. 

Internal and external this is what he trained himself to believe.  
But not she. 
Believing took away the endless possibility in what he often was 
and could be 
and with she. 

Surely it is not found in being trapped alone inside of your own ripped seams,
Surely it does not push the gentle ones you love directly to their knees,
Surely it does not separate our family
and take you from me. 

He stumbled, This is who I am!!! This is me!!! 
Let me be.

Well, she whispered 
That’s not your destiny.
This is not who you are. 
I've always seen. 
Who you are is all the love you give share between.
You keep justifying ways to stay away from the much easier realities. 
The work. The change. The uncomfortability. 
This simply is who you are constantly choosing to be. 
Don't choose anger, choose differently. 

His request came again. 
and because she loved herself too, 
She let him be.

Friday, July 22, 2016

twenty seven. Irene.

"Now that is a good question!" I thought as I shifted on the tall steel stool underneath me.  I found myself this rainy Thursday night surrounded by reflections in this glass room. Placed at the head of a bright-eyed and colorfully skinned crowd, with two fierce and humble women by my side, this panel event was focused on the topic of what being women in social business means for us as individuals and in turn for the world. The series is labeled, "Humans of Change".

The question: How might we (and can we) begin to think about what social business means in terms of implementing it on a much larger scale of policy-especially in countries that deal with traditional, cultural, and religious values that seemingly work against what innovation is and stands for?

So proud that young woman is in my world. I thought.

Time and time again I am reminded of the facade of teachers/experts as the all powerful and knowing vs. students/learners who have little to contribute. This young woman should have been up there beside us talking about what all this means. I gently leaned over for the mic, but not to answer the question; rather to ask another one. For me, it is true that valuable answers come mostly from people who live in those cultures and have those experiences.
"My feeling is since you asked such a significant and thoughtful question, you have your own ideas about this...can you share some with us?"

With brave eloquence her answer pulled my perspective and inspired new thinking for days. Needless to say, I was thrilled at the invitation we insisted upon for coffee the following week.

As I walked into the tiny modern coffee shop at the end of my Soi, there Irene sat with that same brave eloquence in her straight dark blue jean dress. This was especially refreshing to me today becuase today was the day that the last several months hit me in my gut all at once. The weeks before presented some incredible opportunities to explore who I was and where I was in this rollercoaster of life alongside important strangers. During those weeks I become aware of some aspects of my life that were not allowing me to be free or happy in all that I am. I was frustrated and feeling a ton of fear as I started to think head on about what the actions of changing things were going to look like. Particularly spiritually this day I felt off and the idea of sleeping or crying seemed like the best option. I thought about canceling for coffee to allow myself the space to be sad, but was called to go be with others who lift me up rather then walk in all this alone. I also noticed that I was feeling like I wouldn't have much too offer her, but that rang as an assumption of terrible self-pity, so got my ass out the door.

I was right, being near her automatically was lifting.

As many younger warriors do, Irene had questions for me (lots of them) and we followed her curiosities and bounced from story to story. She shared with me some of her own narrative, learnings from the past years of travel and dreams that seem to be taking shape in endless ways.

I wrote on post-it notes some sentences or one liners that nudge me to stay on the path I want to walk in this life and handed them to her. Woman to woman. She even wrote down some things I said which reminded me that my presence or connection may be important, even on days when my spirit is swallowed by my mind.

Irene asked me tough questions that I didn't want to answer on that particular day. I did anyway and there she was with support and openness. We thought through what some things may mean in life and discussed some strings of the ever changing complexity of relationships and our relationship with larger themes like work and service to others.
Every sentence that streamed from her mouth was powerful and clear. 
Every sentence she said, reminded me of the woman I strive to be daily.
As effortless as Irene makes this look, I knew that in fact being the person she is takes a ton of internal work. Self-reflection, honestly, humility and there she was practicing all of those so much they have become her habits, her way of being.
I was inspired and reminded to continue the practice.

I write this blog as a reminder to my future self or to you that even if you find yourself on a panel where your community has asked you to come as a Human of Change or you are a wise teacher placed with the great responsibility to start dialog and guide information to your students-remember that everyone around you is teaching you too.

Once in a while I stumble upon an "Irene" (although never another Irene as her uniqueness is hers), and that Humans of Change are those who engage in relationship over self and show up to the coffee shop to engage in a meaningful way with each other despite what the day brings.
That coffee was the moment that allowed me to pull everything in re-center moving forward in my life being as eloquently brave as I could.

A storm started to brew outside, and in Bangkok this time of the year it means Monsoon rains! As we hurried to get out the door Irene wrote me one more post-it and took the extra few seconds to decorate it. "Make Choices that Liberate You" it read.

and so, I began to practice that daily ever since.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

twenty six. Superwoman.

I could see the lit up stage through the opening between the metal bars that hold up the market stalls and I could hear the sky train roaring above me as it passed stuffed to the brim with everyday people headed home from a day of hard work. The stage held up two Thai dancers floating around it with the beat of seemingly ancient sounds. Their traditional dress was sparkling with glitter of gold and pink and even after living in Thailand for sometime, I still have to remind myself that these beautiful people are not porcelain dolls. 

As I brought up the sticky spring roll to my mouth everything about my being suddenly felt heavy. Like the commuters I find my days especially long in that last few weeks. I became very aware of the tiredness of my body; my worn and wandering mind; my spirit drained from the recent struggles. The music seemed too loud to endure and I stood to go home. I needed to rest. I needed time to breathe. My thoughts gently brought me to a memory of my Jessica. A flash, and my thoughts then guided me to the screen of my phone from my commute into the city as the sun rose with the day this morning. Jess’s message read, ” I am sorry I haven’t gotten back to you. It’s been a tough week, I have pneumonia.”

That alone would cause me to worry. It never feels good to know someone you love is sick especially when you are one million miles away. As I walked I thought about how tired her body must be. I was thinking how achy she must feel, I wondered if her chest hurt and if she had any medicine that would make it better since she is one of those woman that doesn’t complain much and insist that they can stick out anything...and they do.  I wondered how her mind and her spirit were too? Undoubtly also tired.
As I was going to take care of myself I know that Jess, even when she is sick most often cannot, definitely cannot like I can. I knew that the reason why she was sick was also because she simply won't make the time to care for herself, not with little ones around her who have stolen her heart.

Jess is a mother. 
Jess works with youth who need extra assistance in one way or another which means that after an early and quick fired morning getting her two children ready, she spends the day with other little ones who need all of her love and all of her attention. 
Then she comes home to a five year old (that you have read about before- my Jacina) who doesn’t understand the language, “calm down.” Jacina now has a new little brother and has started Kindergarten. Frankly even at such a young age she has felt the struggles of life lately in a real way. She is becoming aware of how fast life can change and how you must change with it or you will be pulled behind. 
Jessica's 1 year old is Zay is just that…1 year old. He needs her even when she is sick, even when she needs a break. Everyone needs Jess all the time and I found myself wishing I could get her away for a quick weekend vacation. But, I know even being allowed to just be sick without someone needing her would be a tall ask. 

I wouldn’t call Jess my best friend, although at many points in my life she was just that. Jess is my longest friend. She is one of my longest friends who has remained close to me and so I would say that she is also my deepest friend. She knows me better than anyone else for the simple fact that she is one of the only people I know who has seen me change with age and spirit. She has seen me through all of my break-ups with boyfriends. She has woken me up on hung over mornings during college to gorge ourselves on hash browns and orange juice. She has watched my dress style change, my hair, my ideas, what matters to me. She knows memories that I have only talked about once or twice. She has sat laughing with me till we cried. We have cried, and cried and cried over things as simple as a movies and as life-changing as losing people we love; at times we cried for regaining them back into our lives. She is my longest friend, my deepest friend and she is the closest thing to unconditional love I have ever had.
Jess validates me even though she doesn’t always agree and vise versa. We validate each other becuase when it comes to unconditional love- we have got it down. 

I know she is proud of me and her loving words and enriching comments let me know how much. “You’re doing amazing things” is said in one way or another often. Her belief in me sometimes makes me feel like I am superwoman. 

Living abroad forces me face to face on the battle grounds with myself about who and how I just may be letting down the ones I love back home. Days when Jess is sick make me want to be there the most so I could at least continue to show her love that she shows to me. I want to go back to Little Rock if only to remind her that it is not the women like me who deserve the praise and respect that I often receive- but it is the women like her. 
Selfless, loving, strong, and relentless in her efforts to be a good person/mother/therapist everyday despite the fact that the world does not recognize it. A day in May reserved for mothers isn’t even close to cutting it. 

Jess, you deserve to be recognized everyday (although you would laugh at that.) 
The strongest ones in the world to me are people like you. Women who find themselves with pneumonia and who are still no doubt putting their kids in the bathtub (and sitting with them when they refuse to put their toys up and get out) and reading them a story while you all drift off to sleep. Did I mention that I know you are doing all this alone most days? I love you, and I wish I was home to help. 
I am proud to know you. 
To me, you are the superwoman. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

twenty five. Ms. Gibson

I feel that the American education system is failing our youth across the country, particularly students who endure struggle outside of their time in school.

These struggling students can be a little harder to "handle". For them, it is a little harder to sit and listen about math and history when their bellies are hungry and their spirits heavy from the violence they consistently see the night before and in the neighborhood whether from parents, neighbors or police officers. It is harder to listen to teachers who do not listen back and demand respect but have done nothing to earn it. It is hard to look up to school administration who look down on them and never take the time to know who they are outside of the occasional poor choices they make.

So, high school for me (like many others) was hard for these reasons to name a few. I did a great job hiding my pain with humor and made sure the clothes I wore were covered in tiny seals of status in the form of name brands- this way no one would question my life after the 3 o'clock bell rang. I learned to lie well and those four years were some of the loneliest times of my life.

Sophomore year at Case High school I decided to tryout a theater course. I figured I was great at acting at this point since I did it with everyone I met. "This class would be a joke and an easy A+." Maybe an A+ would make my social workers happy and I wouldn't have to move foster homes again for awhile.

The day I met Nancy Gibson, I realized I was not prepared for Theater 101. She was different from every other teacher I met in all the 10 schools I had been in since kindergarten.
She was the first and the only teacher who dug deep and wasted no time going there with us. She wanted to know who we were, what made us tick, what made us different and what made us the same. She pondered what courage meant for the incoming collective year after year and how each one of us could contribute to the success or to the failure of the class. She pushed me to think critically and think all the time. She pushed us to think for ourselves and than to speak that out loud to the world. She asked us to feel too which was the last thing I wanted to do. This class was not going to be easy at all.

It was the improv activities that we participated in the first day that tipped me over the edge. We had t to be comfortable and trust the others in the class to be silly and not be made fun of. This was insanely hard for me.  I marched to go the guidance counselor after the bell rang and asked if there was another class I could take during that time slot. There wasn't.
Okay fine.
I will just get through it.

As class went on I learned many things. I learned how to build community with others around me. How you ask?
Nancy invited us to listen to each other and as we were provided the space and time to the very many pieces of our authentic stories. Through this, I realized I was not alone in my pain. It pulled me out of being isolated whether I liked it or not. I started to make friends in this class, the real kind. The kind who listened to my words, saw me for what I was and loved me still. To this day, as a 30 year who lives abroad, many of these people are still my family.

At the end of the class, we had to put our stories together into a production that was written, directed, and acted by us. We were asked to bring those stories and that vulnerability we gave in class everyday to the city now. My heart sank. "I can't do it," repeated over and over in my mind.

With that mindset I wrote a piece that was honest, but not as brave as it could have been.
One week before we had the show, we were practicing in the theater. It was my first time saying my monolog out loud in front of our class. My paper was riddled with erasings from my latest change and edit to make this monologue said as an act, rather than said from my heart.

I avoided eyes with Nancy (which is what she let us call her because as she would always remind us- we are all equal humans here!) After the half-hearted applause from my class subsided, she rose and stood next to me.  Boldly, she asked me to do it again, but this time at least "say it like you mean any of it." Line by line, she would make me repeat it till she could hear me open up. I hated every minute. I was uncomfortable. I knew she could see through the mask I put up for the world. I wanted to walk out, and she told me I could if I wanted to.

Of course, I couldn't walk out at that point. No way. We were all a family in there and that theater and Nancy were the only places that I felt safe in that school and outside of it. If I walked out on my story -I was walking out on everyone else's. I continued.
A part of my monolog came that was painful and she put her hand on my shoulder and ask me if this part made me angry. It did. She nodded her head and I knew I could scream it if I wanted. I did.

I finished my monolog in tears- heart beating fast. The room was quiet now and still.
I took a deep breath in and sat down as my theater family hugged me.
Nancy said, "there you are" and gave me a high five with her warm smile.

That moment was the first time since I entered foster care five years before that I too could see myself; feel myself. "There you are Katy." The Katy that wasn't afraid to speak from her heart. The one that was brave even though she was hurt, and still being hurt from home to home. There she was. Beautiful. Free. Standing. Crying from strength this time.

Years later, Nancy asked me to come back after I finished my Masters Degree to talk about my work around the world that involves teaching design for social innovation. I teach how to get others involved in building solutions for our world to create better programs for youth, poverty, and much more. I now work to give others a voice particularly in designing their own solutions!

During this time with her, as I sat on the aged and familiar theater floor with her she told me of the years I had missed. The classes she adored, the lessons she learned. Those years asked her to endure a close call with death from cancer. She told me the story of her pain now. The story of her partners strength and love that helped her rise from the ground. She told me the story of planting flowers in the front yard in the most desperate hours. She told me the hope, and the fear. For that moment as she shared with me, I was overwhelmed with love and admiration, yet again. You can never say that one person led you to be who you are. There are many connections, many experiences, many conversations that guide and form us into our current selves.

But for me, Nancy Gibson was the ONLY teacher that gave me permission to tell my story the way I wanted and in that I was able to re-write it. I can boldly say that class, Nancy and the other students who met with me 2x-3x a week in those seats are the first reason I chose the right path outside of class. Statistically, by age 19 I had a 50% chance of being pregnant and homeless. 64% chance of being addicted to drugs, and 64% of being incarcerated.
Instead, I was in a 4-year college working with other at-risk youth practicing the skills that Nancy taught me. Unlocking the stories in others and pulling out courage to share; courage to listen and to speak, scream, and whisper who we are.

No award you can give her will do her justice, and what she does every day is most definitely gift enough for her. Everyone who enters that theater can see that in seconds.
Theater 101 was not about "acting" at all. It was the class that helped me find who I already was. Her class was about re-discovering, building, standing, and leaning in through connection. That is a gift that words can't explain from a kid like me who without it, living a full life may not have been an option.
There is no better teacher than one who teaches that.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

twenty four. The wandering travelers.

Living abroad means that you meet travelers often. I always ask them, "So why are you traveling?" and many times the response I get is, "to find myself- a bit of soul searching I suppose."

What I think I know more and more is that what we are actually looking for along the way is not to find ourselves, but to find the courage to be who we are; to cultivate happiness for ourselves, and maintain that for at least most of the time.

Who we are is within in us. It has been from day zero.
The core of us is love, I have seen it over and over when we are at our best, even from the "worst" of us. The rest is the bad habits we picked up along the way isn't it? The tools and reactions that are no longer useful for us but still stick if we allow them and YES- that puts US in the way of our own happiness.

So traveling for this purpose is unnecessary. Find the courage in that time and practice being yourself around strangers.

Travel to learn from others totally different from you....there you will find courage you never imagined.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

twenty three. Thai Dad.

In the mornings at this Elephant Nature Park lots of things go on. The other morning in fact, I heard loud shuffling right outside our bathroom window. Surprisingly there was an elephant escapee eating the tree by our house while stepping on top of another, happy as can be. 
More normally however, the elephants wake up to their breakfast given to them by the Mahouts, and the dogs who are resting at the clinic stretch their legs. Volunteers come and walk each one of them allowing the stroll to wake them from their sleepy minds too. 

For a few hours a day, the road that leads to elephant park are scattered with dogs on leashes. Some people getting pulled, others doing the pulling from the stubborn muts who would rather sit in their cage all day then have a leash around their neck. 
It’s my favorite time of day not only because we are starting it by doing something for other beings, but because there is a sense of companionship that comes from being with those animals and not needing to say a word. During this time the park has a consistent quiet and calming fog. It’s one of the few times I find it very easy to just be without thinking or processing what’s going on around me. 
Dogs are inherently comforting, and this is a new lesson for me that I am grateful for.

Every day that I walk the dogs I see this man on his motorbike. In Thailand, this is not an uncommon thing as motorbikes are THE way everyone gets around regardless of age, class, or sex. However, this man was easier to notice as he always has a baby wrapped in blankets tied around this chest and he does not pass me just once, but several times.

Day after day, him and I smile at each other. Sometimes he would stop and raise the little baby's hand to greet me in the traditional Thai greeting “ Swa-dee Kup”. He is so warm, and I found myself looking forward to seeing him for the sense of connection he brought me even in such a foreign place. A reminder that humanity is giving in many ways if you are open to seeing it.

As I spent more and more of these walks enjoying the jungle around me and getting used to living at the park- I also got more time to observe him on his daily rides. One day I noticed him stopping many times. Every 50 meters at least and looking at something with his baby. He would slowly move up a little and suddenly stop again. 

Curious as I am most days I turned my dog (Bubba) to go the other direction and try and see what he was seeing. At the first stop I found a fat caterpillar hanging from his  string making his way back up to the tip tops of the tree. This caterpillar was green with tons of tiny little feet- quickly moving it’s body back and forth to get momentum for his long journey. I thought of how tired it was going to be when it finally reached the trees leaves that were so far away. 

I continued to follow the man, and the next stop was a pocket of flowers. These flowers you can find all over the area where we live. They smell more beautiful than any flower I have ever smelled. They gently drop from the trees and lay perfectly where they land leaving their colors are bright and symmetric no matter what time of day.

I followed him for a few more stops. Each stop, he seems to slow down finding beauty in nature and exploring the organic magnificence all around with the baby in his arms. You may be wondering why he was doing this and why he rides up and down the roads? I was. Was it simply to be curious about the world?

Finally, one day I was out longer than usual giving dogs walks since the clinic was short on volunteers. This time I got to see him finish his ride and pull into his house. I noticed the little baby sleeping as I walked closer to him. He smiled as always and put his fingers to his lips to say the baby was finally asleep. 

Every morning he did this ride with his child, to explore, to notice, and to be patient in providing that child with what it needed- even if for others it may seem far from convient. For the whole day,  I felt a little overwhelmed by the mans capacity for love. I myself even longed for that kind of patience and love from adults when I was a youth. I was inspired and reminded. 

I think many Dads never get enough credit for what they bring to the lives of their children. In South East Asia, and all over the world, I have seen so many Fathers (related or unrelated to the ones they protect and watch over) who build their children up every second they get. As myself and many of my friends are reaching 30 year old- we often discuss ideas of parenting and methods to creating a successful child. All of us thinking we have the best answer drawing mostly from how we were raised. Having a child seems scary for many of us? To be so incredibly  responsible for another being is maybe the most important things we will ever do.

With all my work with youth I often say, “ everyone should take a class before they procreate! It’s the most important job you will ever have!!” 
This man reminded me that good parenting, or any relationship for that matter, doesn’t need much outside of patience and awareness of what others need. We all need someone strong enough to ask us to slow down and notice things that nature gives us for free. Sometimes we need someone to drive up and down the roads of our life with us will we figure it out, or finally fall asleep in comforting arms till we can find the strength to try again.

I want to be more like this man in my daily activities and if I am ever a parent one day, it will not be the many books on child development I have studied the most that will guide my path, but his example I am lucky enough to observe in the mornings while I live at Elephant Nature Park.