Nyae Soe

We would play till the sun disappear and night was creeping in. The day was never long enough. Some played with me here and there just as people come and go in life. My friend always played with me no matter what day it was. Sometimes my parent would give her some snacks. Other times, some rice when we could spare. She was always lingering near my house. She was always with me.

I would later find out that my friend’s father, whether it was gambling or alcohol, was always in debt, and he had sold off all of the family’s ration of rice, beans, chilies, and fish paste to pay his debt. Sometimes, the snacks I could give her were the only food she had to share with her little siblings. She was her siblings’ mom, dad, big sister, and all of the above.

One afternoon, we were playing till it was pitch dark. I took her home. Her little siblings were waiting for her. “Where is mom”, she’d asked her little siblings. “She went to find food for us”, they’d reply. We all sat waiting for her mom. We laughed. We talked. We waited some more. It was now really late, yet her mom was nowhere to be found. We were worried. We were scared. She was terrified. I cannot imagine how it feels to have the person you look up to the most leave you all by yourself. Especially when you are barely in your teens with little siblings to care for.

She would be alone with her little siblings for a couple of months before her mom returned. Her mom had found work outside of the refugee camp. Because of how hard it was to travel as a refugee, she couldn’t come back for my friend. After working a while and securing a place, she came back for my little friend and her little siblings. Seeing my friend leave to stay with her mom was bittersweet. She wouldn’t be alone anymore and she would have food to eat and a safe place to live, but I also won’t see her anymore. It has been over 15 years since.

Recently, I got a message on Facebook. Someone had forwarded a poster to me. A poster that asked about my family. It said, “If you know these people, please send this to them so that I can contact them”. It was my dear little friend from all the way back then. Back in the camp. Back when we were kids. Back when we would play till the sun no longer smiled upon us.

She told me how much it meant to her that we gave her food. How grateful she was that we played with her. How happy she was that we were friends. She thanked me for all these acts of service that seem so little. It was a little act of friendship and kindness. It was small, but it meant the whole world to her. I had no idea. Years later and she hasn’t forgotten how it felt.

As I recount the greatest blessings of my life, I attest to her heart’s feelings. It is true that the smallest things take up the most room in our hearts. Small acts of friendship, kindness, and service.

When We Played Till Dark – Nyae Soe
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