Jishuna Rashong - God Bless You!
I have a special place in my heart for the family of my friend Asheesh. Philip (my brother) and I spent Christmas with them and Philip was sick. Asheesh's family did everything they could to make Phil comfortable, they bought him medicine and cookies and clean water, they helped him as much as they possibly could with their limited resources, and they did so in the most gracious way.
Last week I went to visit Asheesh's family again to say goodbye. I had told them I was coming around noon and when I showed up early, at 9am, everyone quickly came over to greet me. I sat down in the courtyard as tea was prepared chatting with whomever passed by. I was given slightly green lychees, a wonderful flavour of fruit (just think sour patch kids without the grating sugar). And as I sat there watching the family work, all ages mingling together, so happy to have me there to enjoy their company; I realized the meaning of friendship and hospitality. Asheesh's family is not well-off by any standard, but they always treat me as an honoured guest, giving and never asking anything in return.
The feeling of being accepted and welcomed in this country is such a humbling and powerful experience. Experiences like this have the opportunity to be transformative. To open eyes and let true hospitality and a servant heart serve those of us who think we can do it on our own. To be served and welcomed by those who we think should be sad and lost in self-pity, is humbling and simultaneously overwhelming. I hope that someday my actions can give that joy and happiness to someone else, that joy that comes from being served and welcomed not out of necessity but out of happiness and love.
There I sat in the courtyard drinking tea and playing cricket with Asheesh's little brother and I felt an overwhelming sense of peace in the world. Nothing needed to be done at that moment, I could just sit and be. I could play, I could talk, I could just sit. Noone needed to entertain, they were busy, but every so often they would come over and ask me to help with something, or ask if I wanted more tea; I was more than a guest, I was a friend, I was almost part of the family.
Asheesh's cousin came along after a while and we visited his mom at her work at the silk weaving centre and visited the fathers at the Mission before returning for a wonderful lunch of chicken curry and dhal. Chicken curry is a very special dish in Bangladesh, especially for a poor family. To be served chicken is an honour and it was another demonstration of their love and how gracious hosts they were.
Just before I left to return to Mymensingh for a meeting, I took this picture of their family so I will always be able to remember them. I will give Asheesh a copy of the picture and I also gave them a picture frame and a picture so they can remember our time together. Life can sometimes be a challenge, but in those little times of friendship and hospitality I really sense a deep connection with people here.