August 23, 2011. It started out much as every day in Thailand, with a long bus ride to the border town, Mae Sai. We had our entire group (well, those of us who were left), there that day. Me, Aub, Dave, Courtney, Andy, and Mitch. On the bus we hauled as many bags as we could carry full of clothes and toiletries to donate to both DEPDC and the orphanage. I'm sure we all looked quite strange, all these farangs with trash bags.
It was a little strange going up with everyone, as I was used to only the regulars being with me. I know one of my weaknesses while in Thailand was that I was a bit too possessive of the kids. I only wanted people going up to DEPDC who genuinely cared, worked hard, and who wanted to be there.
Despite this, I am glad they headed up, as Andy was so nice to take pictures of the day (I was usually too busy to take any pictures with me and the kids), and Dave so sweet to translate.
We started out class with Dave and I letting the kids know that it was our last day at DEPDC. I swear, when I was talking and Dave translating, it was the quietest I saw the kids EVER. They listened attentively, with eyes wide. It was a calmness I had never felt from the kids. It was like they were telling me they were going to be okay, and that I would be okay too.
Aub and I had scheduled the whole day out, as we did not want to waste a moment with the kids. Aub had the great idea of having the kids make cards for Sompop and Alinda, the founder and director at DEPDC. It was so cute. Without us even telling them, the kids decided to draw their hands on one of the cards, and hearts on the other.
We made sure to get the kids back to the front with half the class time left, as we had a bit of a surprise for them. Aub, Lars, Jamie, Manasa, and I had made cards for each of the kids, with personalized messages in Thai and a picture of us with the class pasted inside. The cards were beautiful, and I was so excited to present them to the kids. Aub had also make bracelets for each of them, each unique in its own way.
We called each of the kids up individually, and I was so glad to be able to single each one out, and to be able to show each of them how much they meant to me and all of us. Most of the kids loved it, some were embarrassed, and some acted too cool for the whole thing. I was happy to see that we only had two kids missing that day, as most days we have more than that absent.
The young guys at DEPDC were great, helping us set everything up for the movie. Aub and I had brought all kinds of treats for the kids, including popcorn. We bought about 20 bags of it at 7-eleven in Chiang Rai, and carried them all the way to Mae Sai. The things you have to do when there are no microwaves.
I had a great time during the movie just hanging out with the kids. They would feed me popcorn (literally put it in my mouth) and different kids kept coming up to me to give me cards. They were so sweet. Many of them had began making the cards right after I told them it was our last day, and spent the time during the movie making their little creations. Other of the kids were in full attention during the entire movie, as I am sure they had never seen a movie that large before. It was so cute to watch them.
After the movie, it was time to say our goodbyes. I was ready for the moment, and prepared myself to put on a happy face for the kids. Somehow, I caught each one of them, even those that usually hurry away. I was so thankful for the opportunity to say goodbye to them individually, and to be able to hug and whisper words of farewell and love to each of them.
I was particularly touched by one such goodbye.
It was with Sisen (The boy above on the left), a child who is smart but who acts out constantly in class. He is my most distracting student, as he talks throughout lessons, and leads many of the younger boys to follow his example. But this day was different. During that day he would come up to me and give me hugs, or just shout "Kryssy" and give me sweet smilies. The kid, it short, surprised me. I didn't know he cared that much. Sisen gave me multiple hugs that day, and after the movie, as we were saying goodbye, he kissed me on the cheek and kept his little arms wrapped around my neck. He followed me as I was walking away, and would not leave my side. He was sweeter than I had ever seen him.
He was the one, more than any other, who made me feel like, at the moment, it was all worth it. All those hard days, where the kids wouldn't listen, or be quiet, when they would fight or be angry or worse, were all nothing. I went to Thailand for him. For him to know that someone wanted him to succeed, that someone wanted him to grow and progress and become more than he though was possible. And he was there for me, to show me that sacrifice is a necessary part of life, that love comes in many forms, and that service, once given, is never forgotten.
He'll be in my heart, as will all the other kids, forever. As I walked up the path away from the kids and DEPDC, I did finally loose it. I did not want to leave. Not for them, but for me. They made my life better, and I was happier with them in it. Thus, in my last moment, I cried selfishly. But what more can you do, when you know they have given you more than you could ever give back?
My last day in Thailand ends here, with a conviction that real service, when given, is the greatest gift you can bestow upon yourself.