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How Would Jesus Wai?

9 June 2008

Twenty years ago this week, I left Thailand with a group of 42 Aggies for Christ.  Leaving Bangkok’s old airport was bittersweet; it was my first and only trip to the Far East, and now it was the halfway point.  Nineteen days in Thailand, from Song Khla to Chiang Rai and from the doting Indian tailors of Soi Sukumwit to the Kalashnikov-enforced destitution of the Burmese border, I marveled at a culture that embodied so many lessons from the kind and generous heart of Jesus.  

Next were the suffocating, self-obsessed, indifferent hordes of Hong Kong and Seoul.  The wondrous part was over.

As I wrote the previous post on the posture of the request, I reflected on what I had learned in Thailand.  How beautiful, I thought, to greet someone with a deep wai, or to duck down in respect as I pass him by…

Unfortunately, of course, the naive farang’s insistence on giving a deep wai to a servant or a person in a lower stratum is mai suphaap, out of protocol; a hasty, unthinking nod to one’s hands is all that’s expected.  One reserves a deep wai, with head below one’s hands, for an encounter with someone of high estate, wealthy, titled, noble.

I have to wonder, though:  if Jesus had met an AIDS-wracked, 5-time loser-at-love at a well in the midday sun of the Hill Tribes, how would he wai her?

I think I know.


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