Connection: What Does It Take?

Watering flowers in Yangon

Watering plants in Yangon

A beautiful smile beamed at me from beneath a wide brimmed woven hat. I gestured at the flowers she had been watering and gave her a thumbs up. She received the compliment and responded with an even broader smile. I held up my camera; she nodded, and I clicked. As unlikely as it seems, a friendship began with this random encounter along the lakeside walkway in Yangon.

Enjoying our picture together

Enjoying our picture together

I made a copy of the photo and carried it in my bag for weeks, hoping to see the gardner so that I could share it. One day our paths crossed again and I gave her the rolled up picture which I had printed on plain white paper. It brought her so much delight that we had our picture taken together, and I printed and shared that one too. Another afternoon, after she was finished with work, she took my hand and led me to her home for tea. She wanted me to see so how the gifts I had given were displayed on her wall.

Home visit

Home visit

We communicate with gestures, sounds that the other almost never understands, and laughter. Amazingly, in this way we’ve come to know about a bit about each others’ lives. Sometimes we are able to share about deeper things–all without words.

Home altar

Home altar

While our life experiences couldn’t be more different, they are also strikingly similar. Di Di Aye is Buddhist and I am Christian. Because of language differences, we can’t talk about our spiritual lives, but when times have been hard, we have used our facial expressions and tone of voice to express our concern. Once when Di Di Aye feared homelessness, Tim and I asked if  we could pray together. She nodded an appreciative “Yes.” We held hands and through tears we joined our hearts, asking God for help.


Bridge of pipes

I can’t say I fully understand our connection, but it is deep and real. We both value it. Yesterday I was walking by the lake and scanning the island where Di Di Aye lives, hoping for a reunion with my friend. To my delight, in the distance I saw two hands go up and wave. Next, I watched as Di Di Aye ran across her “bridge” and came to meet me, inviting me to return to her house with her.

Enjoying our reconnection

Enjoying our reconnection

We hadn’t seen each other for seven months since I was last in Myanmar. There was a new grand-baby to introduce to me. When Di Di Aye pointed at the large boil on her foot, I took a good look at it and learned about the two shots she had received as treatment. But what Di Di Aye most wanted me to see was the little flower garden she had planted. I wanted to cry when I realized that the seeds that I had left in June were now blossoming in her yard!

Gardener's flowers

Gardener’s flowers

Life is full of mystery. What unnamable bond unites my heart to Di Di Aye’s and hers to mine?
Life is full of gifts–given and received. A smile. A photograph. A cup of tea. A bag of seeds.
Life can be full of beauty and joy, but we have to be willing to engage–to say “Yes” to the opportunities that present themselves, to live the unexpected blessings that are offered to us, to value connection.

Question for reflection:

What do you need to do to make space in your busy day to notice the gifts that God is offering?

Scriptural Touchstone:

Like clouds and wind without rain is one who boasts of a gift never given. (Proverbs 25:14)

4 thoughts on “Connection: What Does It Take?

  1. Marnie Hensel says:

    What an unbelievable story……can’t think of a nicer e-mail to start my day. I am first going to a Blake breakfast which is always interesting.
    Sending you love and energy dear Jill and thanks so much for sharing.

  2. Mary Kaye Medinger says:

    THanks you so much, Jill – this reminds me of a similar blessed encounter I had with a woman in El Salvador in 1989…the world is so small…hope all is well with you.

    Mary Kaye Medinger
    Consociate Services Team
    Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet – St. Paul Province
    1884 Randolph Avenue
    St. Paul MN 55105

  3. Beautiful Jill, this resonates so deeply with me and the work I do. Thank you for capturing this precious journey of the heart.

  4. LK Warren says:

    This is so deeply beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing this.

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