A Letter to Lily (Keep your wishes before your eyes.)

October 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

Dear Lily,

I am writing to thank you for the gifts you gave me.

“You’re very beautiful,” you said, when we first met. It took me by surprise. “Are you oriental?”

At first I felt wary, wondering if I was being exoticized. But then I looked into your face and saw in it something of my own. When I said that my mother is Filipino, you said that your father was Indonesian. And then I knew you spoke from an affinity.

You asked if I was lonely sitting at reception on my own. And I realized that while, no, I am not lonely, I do prefer having someone to talk to.

So thank you  for sharing your story with me;  your childhood in Indonesia, the war that disrupted everything, the declaration of independence, your move to the Netherlands. You told me of the discrimination you faced in two places you felt were home, the way you were teased and excluded, the loneliness and ugliness you felt inside. As you talked, I remembered the mildness  and comfort of the air I breathed in Manila, the same pacific air that hangs over Jakarta, and I imagined how strange that first winter in the Netherlands must have been.

But you realized that what we make of our lives is an exercise in perspective. You were not an aberration, but a confluence: the best of two worlds. You began to believe yourself beautiful in the harmony you represented.

You were not surprised, you said, when other people began to find you beautiful as well.

Before you left, you pulled a golden trinket from your pocket and handed it to me. “Do you know the legend of Alla-din?” (It was only my favorite story as a little girl. Aladdin and Jasmine and the magic carpet ride.)

A wish lamp, because what we dream of, what we focus on, we draw into our lives and make real. It is good to have a reminder, you said, to keep our wishes before our eyes.

“I like to keep these little trinkets to give to the nice people I meet. Now you will always remember the stranger lady with the wish lamp.”

And so I always will.

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