During the Olive off-season I explore myself in new contexts with a view to developing my sense of compassion, and bettering myself in light of the person I want to be.
This off-season I am exploring an old pastime, teaching, here in Thailand where peace is the local belief system’s first affirmation. I have three students now, one of whom is named Kim and has a “blood disease” they tell me. She is fifteen on the inside, but looks ten on the outside, and comes up to my belly when standing straight, which she struggles to do.
Her face is black and blue all the time. Her eyes are swollen nearly shut, and she always wears a mask over her face, I imagine to protect herself from airborne threats. She cannot carry her book bag so I do, from her car to the classroom, after greeting her mother with a bow and my hands clasped together in front of my face.
We meet twice a week for two hours each day, to prepare for an exam she cannot possibly pass, after having missed a year of school due to her illness. Now we are reading about WWI and it tickles when she tries to pronounce Franz Ferdinand and Kaiser Wilhelm. I feel she will die soon.
Yesterday I had an offer to teach what would most certainly be a fun-filled and moderately lucrative refresher Customer Service class at Black Mountain Golf Course, ranked the Best Championship course in Thailand, the Best Course in Asia Pacific, and a Top 100 championship course outside the US by Golf Digest. In February they will host the $2 million dollar Thailand Classic in cooperation with the European Tour.
The problem is that the two classes would conflict, and so when I got the offer I began thinking of possible excuses to cancel my classes with Kim, or at least attempt to change her meeting times. After all, you must understand that I….
And that’s about as far as I got. You see, many years ago a minister approached me and asked me to help him achieve his humanitarian goals. The opportunity would afford me a very rare glimpse into the lives of global leaders, the possibility to impact national and international policy, to help considerable numbers of people, and of course, a much better paycheck. I said yes, as it’s natural for us to aspire to extend our reach, our ability to effect the kind of changes we would like to see in the world. We all want to “improve our lives,” as my friend Khalid once said, and so did I. It’s just that after many years and a carbon footprint all of you reading this combined could not possibly exceed in your lifetimes, and after losing the most valuable things I had – love, faith, integrity, loyalty, simplicity, authenticity – I quit, never having felt I really helped anyone, and feeling poorer and less improved than I ever had.
I understood after a some meditation on the very generous opportunity to head off to Black Mountain, that I was being given a repeat test: to rearrange my values such that I could justify a form of disloyalty to what I call the “Small of god’s Things” for what I might stand to gain from, or accomplish because of, the “Large” of god’s Things. Legitimately or not.
When we say Olive Loves Life, we mean life, all life, but more importantly we mean we won’t abandon the smallest of god’s life, the birds, the bees, the worms, the fish, the disfigured, disfavored, discolored, dis-enfranchised, dis-owned and dis-inherited suffering among us, for the possibility of a greater payoff elsewhere, no matter how attractive it is. The thing you must always keep in mind is that we care about you, no matter how bad things seem, no matter how ugly you feel, no matter how many pieces inside you are broken, no matter how many sins you may think you have committed. Unlike the heaven of our ancestors, we try to keep our Olive Loves Life heaven open for all, anytime, and with neither admission fees nor exclusivity clauses between us.