Happy Wai Kru!
In American terms, "Wai Kru" is essentially a Teacher Appreciation Day. A very happy day in the life of Teacher. In the states, days like this tend to be just another holiday that comes with our calendar that we easily overlook, like Arbor day, and Secretaries day, or the birthday of a Queen of some country we've never heard of. But in Thailand, Wai Kru isn't just another forgotten holiday. It was actually a very exciting day full of surprises and ceremony.
At 1:00 all of the students and teachers at the school met together in one big room with a stage at one end. As a teacher, i was told to go sit in one of the chairs that had been set up on the stage. They sang songs and people spoke, but i couldn't understand a word of it because it was all in Thai. But then, all of my students came up to me bringing flowers and waiing me. You've seen my picture of Waiing with Ronald McDonald. The wai is a symbol of respect involving two elements. How high you hold your hands, and how low you bow. To a friend or coworker, for example, i would hold my hands at my chest and lean slightly forward. For someone like my boss i would want to give more respect, so i would do the same but hold my hands at about my chin or mouth. My children all came up to me with their gifts of flowers, had their hands up to their foreheads, and knees and elbows on the ground at my feet. Can I express to you how awkward this was? I really didn't know how i should respond at all, but i was told just to receive the flowers and to smile.
After the ceremony it was back to classes as usual. And that is when something really struck me. Trying to get my 23 first graders back to the room, trying to get them to listen to me, trying to get them to do what i was asking... it wasn't easy at all. And I honestly had to wonder if all the honor and respect they had just given me was real. Was it something they were doing because they truly appreciated me and wanted to do something nice, or was it simply because this is what they were told to do for sake of tradition? Please don't write back with "Elizabeth, you're a great teacher" comments, because that's really not the point of this post at all. My point is to remark about how similar we can so often be to this. Like the people in Isaiah 29, who so faithfully followed tradition in worshiping God. In verse 13 it says, "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men." They said all the right things, and did all the right things, but their hearts were far from being in the right places. Just like to me, when all the waiing and flowers meant nothing to me when i saw that my kids really didn't know what they were doing or why they were doing it, it is the same with God. Our worship of Him means nothing if it is not an overflowing of the desire of our heart to please God.