• May 16, 2012

“I want to die.” ... “But we love you, Naa!”

by Katie Kustusch

"There I was, a year ago, on the other side of the world, lis­tening to my friend say:"mai mii phyan, jaak tai." ("I have no friends, nobody loves me, I want to die.")

I met Naa in Khlong Toei, the slum where I lived in Bangkok, Thailand as a Missionary of Compassion. I never expected this. I never expected that I would leave a great job, my family, and every­thing I’ve ever known to go and become friends with people in a slum. But when I first encoun­tered Heart’s Home here in Brooklyn, the joy I saw cap­tured my heart.

When I first met Naa, she was stop­ping for lunch at our house in Khlong Toei. She’s like any other 17 year old in some ways. When I first met her, I wasn’t sure why she needed our friend­ship so much. There are so many others who do. Every day in our neigh­bor­hood we encounter so many people who are lonely and for­gotten. Each week we go to visit pris­oners in an immi­gra­tion prison, and people dying in a nursing home. But Naa? She calls us prob­ably 5 times a day, some­times obnox­ious and melo­dra­matic. She will tell us she loves us, then not talk to us for months. As I got to know her, beneath her facade I dis­cov­ered a lot of pain. She began to trust me, just a little. She would call more often late at night, crying: "I have no friends, nobody loves me, I want to die."

These short con­ver­sa­tions leave me pow­er­less and aching in front of her raw pain. What can I pos­sibly say to her when she tells me this? She has grown up in a slum, unwanted by her mother, and despised by society.

But I do reply with the simple words: “But I love you. We love you – all your friends from Heart’s Home, and we don’t want you to die.” And I hope she hears it. Sometimes we are given the priv­i­lege of saying these words directly to her. Most often we say it in much smaller ways. And so when she is losing hope, she comes to us to be reminded of her own beauty and dig­nity.

It’s hard to explain in a few short words the depth of our friend­ship with Naa, or my expe­ri­ence with Heart’s Home in Thailand. How do I explain that my heart aches more, because it is full of so many more beau­tiful and broken people like Naa? How do I share this seed of com­pas­sion, planted in my heart, that is blos­soming in ways that I never expected? It is what com­pels me to begin a second mis­sion with Heart’s Home in El Salvador in just a few days. I know that I’m not going there to do extraor­di­nary things. But if I learned any­thing from my friends in Thailand, it is that we don’t need to do extraor­di­nary things, only ordi­nary things with great love. This is how we build a civ­i­liza­tion of love, and become ambas­sadors of com­pas­sion."

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