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Our Friend From Down the Street

05/22/2012

His name is Moodang, and he messed up my life.

I know this will come to a surprise to some of you, but I am an introvert. Shocking, right? But, seriously, I am a casebook introvert. I am solid “C” on the DISC profile. I am your model INTP on Myers-Briggs. Therefore, I like my time alone and my time at home with just the fam. After a day of being with the people (and for me, that means one or two conversations with actual human beings), I want nothing more than a quiet evening at home.

Therefore, it is frustrating when my outgoing, compassionate wife disrupts my schedule by showing love and hospitality. This was the case a few weeks ago, and things have not been the same since.

After the school year ended in February, we noticed that a young boy was hanging around our tiny street. We knew that he was staying three houses down with an older man who lives by himself, but we knew nothing about why he had entered our little neighborhood. He would ride his bike up and down the street at all hours of the day, in search of anything to break up the monotony of his day. Occasionally
he would ride by while the girls played on their swings outside, but he would only smile when we greeted him. He was obviously shy, or just slightly confused as to why two blonde-haired girls lived at the end
of his grandfather’s road.

After a couple of weeks of silence, Ann finally broke through when she told him that he is welcome to play on our swings, even when we are not home. He said, “Thanks.” I appreciated Ann’s effort, but there was no way this little boy was ever going to step foot on our property. But, then again, I’ve been wrong before.

The next day I came home from work, and Ann told me that the little boy swung for a while while the girls ate lunch inside. He didn’t stick around for long, but a threshold had been crossed.

Over the next few days we saw signs that the boy had been swinging while we were gone, but he still wasn’t ready to engage with this strange family. At this point I was feeling good about our radical hospitality and hoped that he enjoyed playing on our swings occasionally. Apparently, Ann thinks hospitality should involve more than occasional sessions on play equipment, and this little boy thinks my need for peaceful and orderly evenings is not that important.

It might have been a Tuesday, but I’m not sure. I arrived home on my motorcycle and saw the fam playing out front. I was eager to hear about their day, push the girls on their swings and relax around the dinner table. What I didn’t expect to see was that little boy pushing both girls on their swings, with laughter and smiles from all three billowing out from underneath our carport. I looked at Ann with a mixture of confusion and surprise. She just stood there beaming, enjoying her labor of love. After I parked she introduced me to Moodang, our new friend from down the street. He greeted me with a respectful, yet hesitant, wai. Ann proceeded to tell me about our guest. He is 12 years old and attends a boarding school outside the city. (Ann and I both guessed he was eight because of his size. He is a Thai version of me at that age.) He is staying at his grandfather’s house during the “summer” break and would return to his school when the new semester started. His mother worked long hours selling noodle soup, so needed help with caring for Moodang. His grandfather worked some, so he spent his time looking for a little fun. He obviously found some based upon the sounds coming from the swings section.

Now that the ice was broken, life around the Reese house began to change. A couple of days later, I called Ann during the day, and I heard lots of noise on her end. She said that the girls and Moodang were having a pillow fight in the living room. He was inside our house, and it seemed he was here to stay.

We saw a lot of Moodang during the next few weeks. It started with a couple of hours a day. However, it quickly turned into an all day affair. He and the girls would do puzzles, play on the swings, ride bikes, run circles through the hallway, and wrestle on the floor. Moodang would often eat lunch with us and, at times, stay through dinner as well. The big day came when he finally got the courage to go on an outing with Ann. She had promised the girls a trip to the ice cream shop, and Moodang jumped in as well. Ann loved taking her four kids out for a treat.

Moodang’s life is not the easiest; enough said for a blog. Thus, Ann felt an ache in her heart for that little boy who rode up and down the street and wanted him to know that he is loved. And he soon became a great friend to our girls. It was truly a joy having him around. He is respectful. He cleans up after himself. He plays so gently with Brynn and Meg. And they love laughing and giggling with him. Brynn’s Thai has improved immensely after spending so much time with Moodang. And Meg loves getting piggy-back rides from him. We joke about how fun it is to have 4 kids in our family.

I have to admit that I wasn’t thrilled the first time I came home to Moodang in my living room. I was tired and ready for some downtime. I’d like to think I highly value the practices of hospitality and compassion, but, in reality, it is mostly in my head. I value them as long as they don’t intrude on my expectations of ease and order. But, I now realize, that means I really didn’t value them after all. Because hospitality will only be an act of grace when you free some space in your world in order to welcome the other. And that means it’s going to cost you something, especially when you are an introvert. So, I am glad there are Anns out there to push me outside of my comfort zone. Without her welcoming spirit our lives would never have been blessed with the presence of Moodang in our home. And though Moodang did  interrupt my life, I have been blessed a hundredfold by “our oldest” playing with the girls, eating meals with us and joining us for ice cream. In the future  hope I can be more interruptible for others like that little boy who rides up and down our street.

Epilogue: The new school year snuck up on us, and we didn’t get to say goodbye to Moodang before he left. He’s not around, and we all feel the vacancy. Almost every time we drive past his house  Meg will yell “Mooooodaaaaang.” We are already looking forward to the next school break.

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7 comments

  1. I love so many things about this post I don’t really know where to start.
    I love the line, “Ann loved taking her four kids out for a treat.”
    I love hearing Brynn speak Thai in this video as she plays with him.
    I love your self assessed introvertedness and reading your perspective about learning to truly practice hospitality.
    And I love the perspective it provides for my own life in trying to be a person (and family) who practices the same types of things with neighbors.

    Love you guys and continue to be encouraged by you.

    Oh yeah…I also love picturing the look you gave Ann as you pulled into the house….and the gleam on her face as she looked back at you.

    I look forward to hearing more about Moodang in the future!


  2. Great story! Thanks for sharing! Love you!


  3. Ann interrupted my solitude many times in college. And I’m very grateful for it. She even made me pick up a girl for church every Sunday…how sad that she had to insist that I do so. I have learned a lot from that amazing and compassionate wife of yours. I’m so glad both of you continue to share that love with many people all over the world. What a gift to the kingdom and to the hearts of your children.


    • Christianity as we know it in America is dying, which may or may not be a bad thing. American Christianity, like any other cultural Christianity before it, has been a mix of both good and bad. I watched that video a few months back and though I probably agree with most of what they say, I detected a hint of arrogance, as if our generation is going to fix all the mistakes of the previous. Yet in all probability, future American Christians will be fixing our mistakes, and second, it is not like our generation invented caring for the poor (World Vision and Compassion are old organizations).The future of Christianity in America has little to do with the future of the church. The church is growing in Latin America, Africa, Asia – read Philip Jenkins, Lamin Sanneh, Soong-Cha Rah or many others who note this. The church has always faded in one place and grown in another, that is kind of how it always has been.Just to encourage the first poster, God is still sovereign so no need to worry. The Spirit moves as the Spirit will.


    • What a pleasure to find someone who identifies the issues so clearly


  4. Thanks D for sharing this experience…humbled since I grumbled when my extrovert texted to say company (a family of 7) is coming over tonight.


  5. […] What a wonderful reminder of the true nature of the calling to be hospitable and compassionate. […]



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