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Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness…. Broad, wholesome, charitable views …cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime ~ Mark Twain


After the service in the temple, the crowd of us walked with solar flashlights to the low wall in front of what had once been the hospice center. We grownups sat on the wall, all of us waiting for the generator to bring two hours of light. I couldn’t help thinking of the summers when we lived at Teec Nos Pos. There the generator at the BIA school came on for two hours, also in the evenings as darkness descended.

Under a large spreading tree at Wat Opot, children climbed and crawled over us, hugging, sometimes clinging tight with what felt like desperation, other times simply relaxing in our arms. In front of us they played games—hopping, dancing, joking, and repeatedly exchanging names with us. When the lights came on all over the compound, a shout went up.

At the time, the building in front of us housed girls’ and boys’ dormitories on either end with a medical dispensary between them. Now that the lights were on, a nightly ritual took place without any adult directing it. The children who were receiving ARV drugs (about 15 to 20 of them then) lined up in the foyer, and Wayne called them one by one. From toddler to teen, they stepped up to a cupboard and pulled out plastic baskets labeled with their names. They took out their seven-day, evening drug cases and counted out the days, “Mai, Bi, Bai....” They opened the correct compartments and their water bottles and took their pills. Afterwards they received a packaged snack, and the next child was called in to receive his or her dose of life for that day.

They walked out with their snacks to where the other children were playing. Not one of the others vied for a snack packet, no bullying, not paying attention to who might be crunching a cookie. There seemed to be wisdom and understanding beyond years that the children who needed the medicine also deserved the snacks. All of the children had known loss to that dread virus, and they had learned about what is fair and unfair in life. They played harder than any children I've known before or since.

Lessons from the Journey:
1) Loss teaches compassion.
2) Loss teaches the preciousness of life.

© Anna Redsand 2016 All Rights Reserved
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