Slow down

22 Feb, 2018 | Laos
OM International
A young novice monk makes his morning rounds to collect alms - offering prayers in exchange for money and food gifts.
Donna*, an OM team member from the United States, works as a part-time English teacher at a local high school in Laos. Below she shares a life lesson she learnt. 

As I biked to teach my dance class one evening, a chilly gust made me pedal a bit faster, the cooler weather, averaging around 20C (68F) this time of year in Laos, was finally here. I could see several novice monks in their bright orange robes pedaling ahead of me – they were a group I had encountered on a weekly basis on my way to class for some time. Slowing down as I passed them, we exchanged waves and hellos while continuing to move in the same direction. Bicycles are such a common mode of transportation throughout Laos and make for easy opportunities to meet and engage with others. By now I knew their names and where they studied and they knew that I taught dance and rode my bike fast.

“What do you teach today?” one novice monk asked me.

“Today we are getting ready for the Christmas party. Do you all want to come?” I said.

“We can come?” another asked, but all of them looked surprised at the invitation.

“Yes, the whole village is invited.” I told them.

The group said they would ask their teacher (elder monk) for permission to attend, but that they were interested in coming. Smiling, we parted ways and somehow I didn’t feel quite as cold as before.

The encounter reminded me how important it is to take time, even just a few minutes, to talk to people around us. It’s not so much about what we do, but how we live. However, that’s easy to forget when the tasks on hand often preoccupying my mind. Living in Laos has taught me that spending quality time with God overflows into quality time with others around me, even if it’s just simply saying hello to a fellow bicyclist or drinking hot tea with a neighbour. When I obey the call to love people around me, I can take a step back and marvel at how God can open doors that I didn’t even realise were there.

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