• January 9, 2009

Noemie, volunteer in Thailand

The Heart’s Home in Thailand, 2005.

Noemie H. has just come back from her Heart’s Home mis­sion in Bangkok, Thailand. She stayed there from November 2007 until June 2009. Here are some extracts from one of her sponsor let­ters

We go to St Louis hos­pital every Saturday after­noon to visit elderly people. The patients are lying in their beds the entire day, they can hardly speak and are com­pletely depen­dant on the nurses. This apos­to­late teaches me a lot about being a simple pres­ence. The first time I went there, it was very hard for me to accept this sit­u­a­tion. I wanted to get all those people out of their beds, get them out of their depressing rooms and take them out­side. But very quickly I real­ized that they simply cannot get up any­more. Just talking is already very painful for them. Then, a new type of exchange begins to take place, through our expres­sions, our hands…

Last month, Marie and I met a very weak woman who had just arrived at the hos­pital. We intro­duced our­selves, and with some dif­fi­culty she grabbed our hands and she asked us to take her back home with us. We answered that it was impor­tant for her health that she stayed there with the nurses who will take good care of her. However, we promised her that we would come back every Saturday to visit her, and she begged us not to forget her. We noticed she was very tired and under­stood she needed our pres­ence. We told her she could fall asleep and we would stay near her. She held our hands very tightly and asked us not to leave, to stay close, and not to forget her. This lady moved me deeply with her imme­diate trust… She had never met us before but was thirsting so much for this pres­ence. We didn’t change her suf­fering in any way, but the simple fact of holding her hand, giving her arm a rub, smiling at her and repeating to her that we will not forget her and that we are here, was enough for her. She passed away shortly after our encounter.

Near her bed, there was another woman. She was very weak too and could hardly speak. When we spoke with her for the first time, we explained to her that we would be coming every Saturday to visit her. She was so happy that she started crying tears of joy repeating “khun ca maa cing cing? (Are you really going to come?) – chaj, ca maa (yes we will) – oh! khopcaj khopcaj” (thank you, thank you). A couple of weeks ago, I met her again. She imme­di­ately took my hand and held it tight against her heart and she started to tell me little sto­ries from her life. Then at some point she asked me “and you? What do you give to the chil­dren in Klong Toey? Medication, lessons, food?” "No… we try to give them love. We live in Klong Toey to give love.". And she looked deeply into my eyes, and gave me this curious, ques­tioning, even sur­prised look and finally answered “can you give me this love?”.

This silent pres­ence, so silent that some­times I have the feeling I’m use­less. (Again, who am I to judge this?) I learned this again with our friend Phii Nooj. Phii Nooj is a 52 year old woman, she lives in our neigh­bor­hood, along the rail­road tracks. She is very poor and ill. We’ve taken her to the hos­pital sev­eral times, and we’ve put her in con­tact with a local orga­ni­za­tion which now helps her. Sometimes she comes to our home in the evening, around 8PM, when the house is quiet. She sits down on the stool close to the door. She does not want to eat with us, she simply wants to know what we did during the day and tells us her sto­ries. She doesn’t stay more than 15 min­utes. One day she told Sister Regina that when she feels lonely and sad she comes to the Heart’s Home, talks a little bit and leaves “sabaaj caj” (an expres­sion very often used to say that the “heart feels good”). She very seldom tells us about her prob­lems, but the simple fact of feeling our friend­ship is enough for her to keep going fur­ther; a friend­ship that she needs to feel the days pre­ceding her appoint­ments at the hos­pital. Sometimes, she calls us before her appoint­ments; at first I thought she wanted us to go with her but she would clearly tell me no. She just needs to feel us behind her… she just needs to feel loved. It is so simple, but some­times this sim­plicity is so hard to answer to… It would be so much easier to actu­ally give some­thing than just simple love… But this simple love is actu­ally what all of us is thirsting for!

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