She carefully hands me the coins she has swept up from the corners of my bedroom, this change I didn’t even notice was missing. The way she holds them and places them in my hands tells me that she would notice. Her life is so hardscrabble and close to the edge compared to mine that these few coins would make a difference for her.
I make the girls fold and put away their own clothes, sort out all the tangle that they just stuff onto their shelves repeatedly. There are dirty clothes mixed with clean ones, there are so. many. dresses. Two little girls accumulate.
She walks by the door, looks in on them as they sort it out, laughing a little at the thought of two farang girls sorting their own clothes. I wonder how many clothes are at her house, this tiny little mother who looks no older than a teenager and already has a 2 year old daughter.
I’ve seen her house: bamboo walls, a single room, maybe a partition, thatched roofs. No electricity. No running water.
I’m embarrassed by my riches. Literally.
The dresses strewn about the room are causing me extreme discomfort. Now I understand the way Aaron used to feel when he came home after his trips here.
I drive into town in our big old car. It was very inexpensive and it’s far from perfect, but it carries me to the places I need to go. I pass people walking along the road carrying huge bundles of sticks on their heads. They look up as I pass them and I know how easy it would be to have them tie their load to the roof rack and catch a ride to where they are going.
But I’m not here to give rides.
Because even if you took away all this stuff, the clothes, the car, the money, I’d still be richer than most people here. You’d have to take away what I know, and my ability to analyze and learn, before I was as poor as them. Because it’s not just material things that make me wealthy, its the more intangible things, like education and knowledge.
When I remember this my embarrassment eases. Because it’s this that I came to share, to give away. My girls don’t need so many dresses, and I don’t need spare change, but ultimately, it’s how well I share the things in my head that will truly close the gap between me, and this young woman with the brilliant smile and the tanaka smeared cheeks reverently handing me the coins she found on my bedroom floor.