Dear students of session 1,
It’s so crazy to think that its been such a long time since we were all living in Chiang Mai, Thailand together! I hope this letter finds you doing well, enjoying life, continuing to learn and grow as a leader, and asking good questions (you know, that’s what good leaders do!)
As I reflect back on the amazing summer experience we had together, I can’t help but giggle at all of the silliness we had, but I also remember a few moments where I may have shed a tear, just like a proud dad would do. The day we did our cultural exchange at the high school, I was so proud of the work you had put in to make your performance special and meaningful. The way you worked together, many of you getting out of your comfort zone (and into your courage zone) was truly inspiring! Oh, and those dance moves!!! Wow! Ya’ll really did such a fantastic job.
And how about our service work at Baan Praporn! I think we really honored our hosts by doing meaningful work—mixing cement, digging gigantic holes, leveling the foundation of the bathroom—you ALL worked so hard, and I know it made a difference for those students! Speaking of the kids at the orphanage, I still smile when I think of all the pretty braided & flowery hair, the crazy games of futbol, simon says, duck-duck… (goose?)…and I couldn’t forget all the beautiful hugs and smiles and tears as we said our fare-wells one last time before going to the waterpark. It’s a cherished memory for me, and I hope it is for you as well.
I also think back to some profound moments, such as our “Monk chat” with Phra KK. He took such care to tell us about the principals Buddhists live by, showing us the importance of listening to one another, asking questions, being honest, and pursuing the right path in life. I won’t forget how he showed me the importance of forgiving others—how our unforgiveness only harms ourselves, not anyone else. Did you take good notes? What do you remember from the chat? I hope you are still thinking about the ideas KK presented and learning what it means to apply healthy practices and principles to your life.
There were so many other memories for me from our first cooking class, to the crazy giant Gorilla made of straw, to biking across rice fields, our daily hashtags on the white board (#NoMoreTeb), shooting the crossbow (don’t forget I hit BOTH fruits!), all the different markets we explored, painting umbrellas & making pottery, learning how to carve wood, zip-lining, the crazy 3-D museum (and massages!!)….And my personal highlight: playing with the elephants! Wow, what an incredible few weeks we had!
All in all, I’d say we had one unforgettable summer trip. I had so much fun getting to know you all— watching you step up to challenges, listening to you encourage one another, appreciating your teaching and leadership skills in the schools and at service. I like to think that we all did a pretty good job of being present during our 21 day adventure. So, I’ll leave you with a quick reminder of my favorite quote:
“Wherever you are – be ALL there” —Jim Elliot
No matter where you choose to go in life, I hope you will always be ALL there. Live every moment to the fullest. Pursue the things you are passionate about. Stand up for those who don’t have a voice. Have meaningful dialogue. Ask good questions, and actually listen to the answers. You never know what you might learn. You won’t know what’s really possible until you attempt the impossible! Go live life!
All the best this year, and always, until we meet again,
Your “dad” in Thailand,
-Mark Tutschulte, GLA International Director