Happy New Year! Today is the beginning of a three-day (officially) celebration of Songkran, the annual Thai New Year festival that is marked with the ritual of sprinkling friends and the elderly with water. Mom and I have decided to stay inside the Guest House today to avoid being joyfully sprinkled, splashed, or drenched with good wishes!
We joined the staff of the Guest House at 7:30 AM, as we do each morning, for a brief time of Bible study and prayer. Today, the manager of the Guest House spoke about the fifth commandment (“Honor your father and mother so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”). He tied it to the celebration of Songkran, for blessing the elderly, particularly parents, is part of the ritual of this New Year’s celebration. He spoke of how important it was for us to honor our parents and shared his deep regret at not being more attentive to his own parents when he was younger. Both of his parents are dead now and all he has is memories.
He vividly remembers that, when he left home to seek his fortune as a young man, his mother stayed awake all night the night before he left, touching his cheek, smelling his skin and demonstrating in so many ways her love for him. Her last words to him when he left the next day were, “Good luck, my child.” He did not know that he would not see her again in this life. “Don’t waste the opportunity to demonstrate your love, your honor, and your respect for your parents,” he said. So, as we left the Bible study, I hastened to assure Mom that I would dump a bowl of water over her head sometime today – as a demonstration of respect, of course! I’m sure my siblings wish they could join me in this ritual.
We stopped by the laundry room, as we had a few pieces of laundry and Mom wanted to say “Hello” to the staff there. She was warmly greeted by both staff members and then they hastily drew two chairs together in the center of the room and begged us to sit down. We did. Then, I learned that I am now considered one of the elderly – a senior citizen, so to speak – for the reason they had us sit was so that they could kneel before us and pour water over our hands and confer, via that ritual, blessings for the New Year! I was humbled by that ritual and deeply honored that they would offer it to me. Again, I see that I am not an ordinary foreigner in this land, but the daughter of two people deeply loved by the people here in Thailand.