Last week, I ran into mama & papa from Myanmar – the Burmese Karen family that I helped out with last year. I was on my lunch break at Tear Fund and saw them coming out of their English class just up the road. It was an insane, slow motion sort of reunion. At first I didn’t notice them. I was concentrating on the Ethiopian women emerging from the building, wrapped up in their beautiful, traditional white shawls. I wasn’t wearing my glasses at the time, so it wasn’t until she began to run at me, that I knew who it was.
I had been thinking about them on and off for the past few weeks. Mentally kicking myself for not keeping in contact, biting off more than I could chew. That very morning, I had been sitting with Tear Fund staff members hearing their experiences of Myanmar; their predictions for the future and adulation for The Lady. Mama, Papa and Boy flickered across my mind.
So when mama and I embraced like long lost relatives and she stood crying in front of me, it was a cold stark reminder of how much I suck at this. I had failed her and the family. Yes, I had helped out with great enthusiasm in the beginning. Running up and down, taking them to various appointments, visiting every few days. However, by the end of the six months, the busy-ness of life had had its way with me. I succumbed to the pressure of assignments and other commitments and didn’t get a chance to clearly articulate the end of the formal relationship…to properly say goodbye. Perhaps I also needed to have more clearly defined boundaries. Burmese Karen family have extended family in NZ. They probably could have stepped up a little more than they previously did. Nevertheless, the pain of separation is no less.
Yet, I’ve been given a second chance with this brief encounter. For this I am grateful. I’m not sure if I can ever make it up to them, but at least I can try.
Helping people is awesome, fun and life-stretching. You should definitely do it! But don’t be like me. Don’t draw fuzzy boundaries and disappear like Harry Houdini. That sucks.
For more info on Refugee Services NZ visit: http://www.refugeeservices.org.nz/