We asked our slum kids for their version of our Christmas legend. To write us a song of Baby Jesus and Klong Toey.
Their own song also tells of the old proverb: Those in power write the history, and those who suffer write the songs.
Of course, our kids love the traditional account of Blessed Lady Mary & Joseph and Baby Jesus, who came to Bethlehem. Of Angels singing in High Heavens. The Star shinning in the East, guiding the three Wise Men and the Shepherds: the Birth of the Son of God.
Their song begins when Pregnant Lady Blessed Mary had to leave her home in Nazareth and travel to Bethlehem.
Why did she have to go? She just had to. Joseph had to go to follow government regulations to pay his family tax, and she had to /wanted to go with him.
So back to Klong Toey, our children pooled their lunch money for ‘instant noodles’ for pregnant Mary to eat along the way. Plus, some cookies which you can buy in the fresh market. Cheaper than the store.
As the three day journey to Bethlehem was certainly dangerous, the children didn’t know exactly what to do about that. But they decided to give Blessed Mary some money for her Sim card for her phone... in case she ran out, and maybe if Joseph needed to call for help – he could even our kids and they, for sure, would come to scare away the bad guys. And our kids would buy Joseph a whistle that sounds like a policeman’s whistle to blow also.
We are somber but joyful today. Somber because of the Passing of His Royal Highness, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Yet joyful because of his 70 years as Father of our Beloved Land. We miss him, and as one hears on the streets, the Thai expression goes:
Our Beloved dad has died and then they all continue: but don’t worry, we his children will look after the house and our home.
And that is what today is exactly about. We are looking after the house, even though there has been a death in the family. Life goes on.
- Right now the best way to show loyalty and to mourn is to pursue the King’s teachings and we in the shanty slums of Klong Toey will do exactly that.
Also joyful today because we are celebrating this wonder of life with three hundred & eighty elderly folks – mostly grannies who care for our school children. Officially it’s National Welfare Day here in Thailand and Klong Toey, and usually we would have a big party. Today we celebrated in honor of His Royal Highness – we are all wearing black (we wear black every day but today we wore an extra nice black shirt), we said a beautiful poem about our deepest respect for His tireless work. And that we will continue to honor his name by doing our best for the country, for the people – and we had 99 second of silence, in remembrance of Rama IX.
Our staff and 10 of “our” street kids handed out bags of rice, noodles, canned food, cooking oil and hygienic products to our glorious grannies. National Heroine day would be a better name. Where our grand ladies - wrinkled and grey. However, as the wonderful French expression goes - the BLOOM IS NOT OFF THE ROSE. Our grand ladies with their five & six year olds. Look after as best as they can; that the kids do their homework, that they shower in the morning and that they remember their backpacks when they are picked up in the afternoon. These lovely grand ladies do all this while the mums are working or missing and they are reasonably nice to the dads when/if they come around sometimes.
So yes, there is rice and cooking oil, but also a bit of candy for their grandchildren whom they care for – make a home for.
Our school here at Mercy Centre normally has 350 children. Today there are about 100 as it is October School break, and most of the children are with their older brothers and sisters, also out of school for a few days, or have traveled to the Provinces to be with relatives who work the rice fields. But we keep school open for the remaining 100 who have no other place to go during the day, except our school. So yes, we have school, but more games and sweets and some nice person just gave us enough teddy bears…. About 100 teddy bears so there is enough – one for everyone. The same for the slaughter house school - they need a place and we give them a place – A home. And all you good folks who are reading this, share in this ... are giving our kids a home and a teddy bear.
And together with the grannies and the kids and the teddy bears we will continue our work in celebration of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 70 year long reign - His Endless Mercifulness is Imprinted in Every Thai Heart Forever.
Fr Joe & all the kids and staff