My daughter decided to sell her things at a car boot fair at school last week. Reluctantly, I went along with her plans. We got up at 6.30am, and she and her Boyfriend set up their stall for when the gates opened at 8am.
And when the gates opened at 8am, a massive crowd of local residents rushed in. They were mostly construction workers, road sweepers, restaurant workers and the people in the nearby community, who didn’t have much money and who relished the opportunity of buying secondhand expat goods for cheap. My daughter was selling her clothes for THB20 per item, which is less than 50p.
Part of her decision came from the fact that the only charity shop that we know of on the island struggles to cope with the level of donation it receives at this time of the year from expat families who are leaving the country.
I was dubious but I went along with the plans of having a stall, but I saw lots of lovely smiles from ‘customers’ who got hold of bargains at very affordable prices. We sold a coffee machine and sandwich maker for £1 each and the new owners were so delighted, unable to believe their good fortune.
Sometime during the morning, I spotted a young girl looking longingly at a bracelet that was for sale. She was standing there for ages, just staring at it, not even daring to touch. It was one of those sparkly ones with charms that a young girl would simply love to own. So on impulse, I picked the box up and offered it to the girl.
She looked at me with big frightened eyes. “For you,” I said, and she looked even more terrified. And then she ran off, looking around wildly for her adults who were browsing around other stalls.
From where I was standing, I could see her searching frantically for her family. I went after her out of concern as well as my determination that she should have the pretty bracelet.
When she saw me hot on her heels, she shot off and almost ran out of the school compound in fear. The security guards managed to grab her before she ran onto the road (which frightened her even more) and explained to her in Thai that she had done nothing wrong and that “madam” was only trying to give her a present (she shook her head in terror).
That little incident saddened me a great deal.
We live in such a polarised world: the Masters of the Universe and the Have-Nots who serve the Masters, and there is a lot of exploitation going on. I wish we could build a bridge between the two tribes. And we could do it ever so easily, with little things.
But whilst this divide exists, there is fear and distrust. This is another example. My partner is annoyed by my little gifts to the people I meet: I would package loose coins in tiny bags (tied with a ribbon) and give it to the road sweepers, tuk-tuk drivers and the old man collecting plastic bottles. My partner thinks that’s patronising. He thinks if I want to give, I should give something significant. So as we were having this heated debate in our favourite humble restaurant by the beach, a little boy came over to us to try to sell sunglasses. It was late at night, and this child, no more than six-years-old, was still out trying to earn money. My partner opened his wallet. As he just arrived from UK that very evening, he only had sterling in his wallet. He gave the boy a £50 note.
The boy didn’t know what £50 meant. He ran off.
“Aaaah,” my partner purred contentedly. “That should keep his family happy for a while, hey Jac?”
An angry-looking man came running towards us shortly afterwards, waving the £50 note in his hand. He was shouting belligerently and waving his fist. The waiters jumped into action and intervened. My partner knew it was about him, so he got up and approached the man, who tried to punch him, despite being one-third my partner’s size.
Reason (as explained by the waiters): the man who was the boy’s father, thought my partner was a pervert who was trying to buy his son!
I roared with laughter but in truth, I was deeply saddened when my mirth died down: there is so much exploitation, distrust and resentment deep down resulting from the divide.
Even the massage lady whom I know well expressed those feelings when I tried to give her my furniture for free.
“How much you want?” She had demanded. And when I told her, nothing, she looked at me suspiciously and queried me further, “Why you give me?”
Do we ever give and receive freely anymore? Perhaps my simplistic view on giving is wrong on some deep socio-economical level, but for now, I will continue giving what I could, simply because my mum had asked me to be a real millionaire a long time ago, namely give a million away (if I have a million). There is always plenty more where the good things you have in life came from. You can read the article here.
We have to do our bit to heal the world, best we could, with what we can give, especially kindness, I think ❤
From Buddha Doodles: