At the Golden Years Home for the Elderly, wheelchairs formed neat rows in the courtyard, a resident in each one and a look of anticipation on each weathered face.
Every year, for three days starting on April 13, everyone in this country, from top executives and politicians to lowly roadside vegetable vendors, stops everything to celebrate Songkran, the traditional Thai New Year, also known as the Water Festival. For centuries this has been a time to pay respect to parents and grandparents, but the younger generation widely disregards that custom in favor of drinking parties and pitched water fights.
While many of the patients of the Golden Years Home for the Elderly didn’t receive visits, bouquets, and other expressions of love and gratitude from their own children this Songkran, they weren’t forgotten. Our team of foreign volunteers and our children came to honor and encourage them.
The program began with upbeat songs in Thai and English. The residents who could, got up and danced, some accompanied by their IV drips.
Then a boy of seven stepped onto the stage. His blond hair, blue eyes, and dimpled smile seemed to contrast sharply with the Thai country singer’s outfit he wore. As the popular Thai country music began, the boy added the lyrics. In a crystal-clear voice and pronunciation, he sang about a man and his motorcycle. The audience was moved that this child had taken the time to learn so perfectly a style that even many Thais cannot sing.
The song was followed by another. This time, all the children, ages 4 through 13, lined up behind him and his 10-year-old brother as together they sang a song in honor of the king of Thailand, who is revered because of his concern, care, and love for his people. There was not a dry eye in the audience.
The children then mingled with the residents.
“You must be Christians,” said the director of the home afterwards. “Who else would give their time and attention to us on this special day?” The love that all had experienced that day had been Jesus’ love, conveyed through the eyes, voices, and hands of little children.
Originally Published in 2006.