|Four years ago, my husband George and I traveled to Bangkok, Thailand for the wedding of his son, George, to Kanya,
a Thai woman. We wanted to spend three weeks in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand so I could study Thai massage.|
George’s son to help us to find a simple, inexpensive room in the city. Instead we were told that he had found a house
for us! Kanya’s sister’s friend’s father (can you follow that?) had been a good friend of Kanya’s father. The sister’s
friend’s brother was a physician living in Chiang Mai. The brother, Tada, on hearing we were looking for a place insisted
on lending us his small, exquisite, Thai-style teak house. He would accept no money for it. Kanya said we should accept
the offer as an honor to her family.
The day we arrived in Chiang Mai, Tada graciously turned his house over to us,
saying he would return the next day to make sure all was well. He was moving to a single room in the hospital for the
three weeks we were there. The next day when he knocked on the door, we invited him in. He shook his head no, preferring
to stay outside, saying that this was our house now. The only thank you he would finally accept was a contribution to
a hospital project he was starting that involved free laser surgery for infants blinded as a result of premature birth.
On our last day in Chiang Mai, as we walked up the steps of one of the smaller buildings in a Buddhist temple compound, we
heard a man’s voice ask, “Excuse me, do you know O Henry?” It was coming from an orange-robed, Thai monk who had studied
English literature. Yes, we knew the author. “Do you know ‘Gift of the Magi’?” Yes, we did. “Do you know what the story
means?” We sat down for an hour of genuine conversation about the story, about Buddhism, about the monk’s life, about
We were awed by the generosity of Tada and the intelligent friendship of the monk. We left Chiang Mai humbled by the gifts
we had received.