Maybe you’ve pieced together (from some of my posts over the past sixteen months + the common effects of living as an expat for an extended period) that my time in Thailand has not been as simple and delightful as pumpkin pie. As the months have passed and the attractive sheen of living in a foreign land has mostly worn off, it’s become easier and easier for me to gripe. So, I’m sure you can imagine what was going through my head last week when I was sitting (take a deep breath because a huge phrase is about to follow!) . . . in incredible sun, heat, and humidity on an open-air song-thaew that was stopped at a traffic light on a major road crowded with traffic. Probably something akin to whatismylife. I suppose — no, I know — that that’s what made the following so impactful.
There’s a particular area on the song-thaew route home that I particularly hate. It’s where the song-thaew almost always stops: outside an all-boys’ school. Now, nothing against boys, but I think we can all agree that hordes of them typically don’t help matters (in any country) when they board public transportation all at once. Eager to be out of the confines of school and on their way home, they’re usually loud, boisterous, even obnoxious — basically a headache for “old grannies” like me who are melting in the heat and can barely keep their eyes open at 4 PM. (You wish I was joking about that second part.) So, when the song-thaew stopped there one day last week, it was no surprise, and I was not excited about it. What was surprising was that only four teenage boys got on, and none of them was smacking anyone around. In fact, one of the boys standing in front of me had a phrase etched with Wite-Out onto his backpack, and it was this phrase that got into my brain without my even realizing it. (Point being: duh, Laurin, the boys you’re apt to dread seeing on your way home will come bearing the most pertinent and impressionable of messages.) He’d written in perfect, legible English, “Everything is valuable when you think it valuable.”
To be honest, I read it the first time and thought nothing of it other than, “Wow, I’m impressed he has that — in English — on his backpack. I wonder where he heard it.” I kept reading it over the next five minutes because I’m a nosy people-watcher and he was standing right in front of me. After noticing that his soccer jersey was sponsored by a French team from Lyons and wondering if his school has a soccer team and mentally weeping over the heat and wondering for the millionth time how it’s possible for Thai people to wear colors other than black when black is the only color that hides sweat (and how can you not sweat so much here?) and reading the saying on his backpack a few more times, it hit me.
Everything is valuable when you think it valuable. Everything is valuable when you think it valuable. Everything. is. valuable. when you. think it valuable.
Whoa. Everything — the heat, the traffic, the long and sweaty time it takes to get from work to home, the frustrations, the offenses, the good interactions, the incredibly embarrassing interactions, the concerns about the future — everything. is. valuable. when I. think it valuable.
Whoa. Thanks, teenage boy soccer fan, for teaching me truth that I’ve really needed to hear in a language that’s not natively yours (impressive) but is natively mine. You’re awesome.
Meditation for today: “Everything is valuable when you think it valuable.”