Listen

Hear the voices of the non-words.

I had an interesting conversation with Immanuel on our last day in Bangkok and I’m thankful to be able to engage in such spoken words with him.

My mind always ventures into arenas that my hands don’t dare to go. Sitting at Roast on our last day of the trip, I observed our surroundings:

  • Local staff working at a hipster joint
  • Blonde lady with her very adorable blonde baby
  • Thai couple with their equally cute baby
  • Fellow Singaporeans just like me, taking photos of their stylish brunch dishes
  • Thai lady with impeccable English with her Singaporean friend, talking about work matters and life
  • Japanese ladies with a little child
  • Thai lady eating alone

Many other patrons there, but these are just some specific ones.

It’s easy to dismiss them as just fellow patrons of Roast, there for a good meal. But we all have our stories. Some to tell, some to alter, and some to survive.

In my short life on this side of heaven, I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs, but I would call myself extremely blessed. Many others live lives far tougher than I can imagine and far more horrific than I can empathise.

I admitted, quite sadly to Imm that I find it difficult to empathise with the lives of the food sellers, motorbike taxi drivers and masseuses in the land. I try to define each profession because there’s something belittling about generalising a people as the typical person from a place.

Would the young lady stall owner at Soi 38 dream of a life bigger than her stall? Would she want to travel the world? Is she even from Bangkok? Or what did she have to leave behind to come here to prepare food for others?

Do the bike taxi drivers hope to put on better shoes than the Onitsukas that we saw a group of friends admiring as we walked through the streets to get to brunch? Are they married? Do they have children and what do they hope for their children to have?

Do the ladies helped by Alingon, mentioned by Erwin McManus in The Last Arrow want to see a better future for their daughters? Or have they resigned to the route of prostitution? Every time foreign hands touch them, do they still shiver in fear and cringe in disgust? Or have they grown numb to the abuses?

Immanuel comfortingly put that perhaps empathy can be done without necessarily understanding someone else’s shoes. Perhaps empathy can be simply admitting that – there’s no way I can understand what you have been through.

I know I was made for more than this, all my comforts, my blessed life, my good days – but my hands feel so small. Where can I overflow to?

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