Mai Toi OrigLast week I posted an RW Quiz based on a short video clip about a woman in Thailand who was dying of cancer. I was impressed by the many insightful answers I received.

The only problem was that I had a difficult time selecting the best answers … there were so many good ones from which to choose!

So I selected the answers from two people who evaluated the situation from very different life experiences.

One of them is a teenager who just graduated from high school.

The other is a seasoned attorney and graduate of Harvard Law School.

Each of them explained how the video clip illustrated these two acrostics:

To become more self-aware and self-engaging … READ yourself accurately

  • Recognize your emotions (What am I feeling)
  • Evaluate their sources (Why do I feel this way?)
  • Anticipate the consequences (What will happen if I follow these feelings?)
  • Direct them on a constructive course (How can I use these emotions for good?)

To become more other-aware and other-engaging … SERVE every person you meet

  • Smile (home, workplace, church, store, telephone)
  • Explore and Empathize (Show interest in and compassion for others)
  • Reconcile (Be a peacemaker)
  • Value (Express appreciation and respect)
  • Encourage (Give courage, inspire, put wind under others’ wings)

To refresh your memory on the video clip, click here. Then enjoy reading these insightful answers.

Here is what Carter Knight, a recent high school graduate, wrote:

1. How did Mae Toi live out the READ principle?

When Mae Toi received news of her terminal cancer, she faced a crossroads of attitude. Surely she was afraid, but her prior loss of many things such as her husband (who left her) and possessions (she was poor) conditioned her to face this next wave of affliction with hope. She recognized that the person who suffers with hope has great potential to alleviate hopelessness in others who are suffering. She even felt “lucky” to have such a task.

I think that she felt this way because she could evaluate why her past experiences caused so much pain: she was without a family to support her. So Mae Toi anticipated how hard it would be to attack this new front of suffering cancer without the joy that sprouts from family-based relationships. On the other hand, she anticipated how different her cancer experience could be if it was experienced with a family. So Mae Toi directed her emotions in a successful effort to become a mother for people just like her, who are broken, disabled, and poor.

2. How did she live out the SERVE principle?

Mae Toi not only smiles with the kids, such as when Mack catches a soccer ball for his first time, but she also weeps with them, such as when meeting Kitty on the dark street. Mae Toi always carries the same expression on her face that the three kids carry. When they are eating she laughs on the floor with them, and at the ocean she gets giddy just like they do. Mae Toi shows great interest in the kids, and with compassion she met each of them where they were at. It didn’t matter to her whether they were found crying in the dark, begging on the street, or guilty at the police station. She brought Kitty from brokenness to wholeness, Mack from want to providence, and Toe from debt to freedom.

Then, as if that weren’t enough, she reconciles them into the context of a family through adoption. She values them enough to spend money out of her poverty for their benefit and dedicate endless hours out of her short time to soothe them with her guitar.

She shows herself to be an exceptional encourager when she beckons Mack to walk to her without his crutches or brace. I see in that action much courage placed under the wings of Mack by the breath of Mother Toi. This lady took her life sentence and with it wrote a sentence of life for these kids at the end of despair. With a goal like “making others worthy,” she is greatly others-aware and others-engaging!

3. How should believing in the gospel of Christ strengthen a person’s ability to respond to a life crisis in a positive, hopeful and selfless way?

There is no indication that Mae Toi is a Christian, but for those of us who are, the gospel should strengthen us in every life crisis because our God himself has experienced the ultimate crisis of life. From sweated blood in the Garden to shed blood on the Cross, Jesus endured the full spectrum of pain and suffering. This means that our lives can never be so low in the pit that Jesus cannot be found deeper still; and from below our Savior lifts us up with empathizing love.

This is what Lynn Pace, an attorney, wrote:

Watching Mae Toi, Kitty, Mack, and Toe gaze awestruck at the ocean, I was reminded of the song, “I Hope You Dance,” recorded by Lee Ann Womack. Brimming with life and love, Mae Toi does not let a husband’s rejection rob her of the opportunity to shower a mother’s love on three special children, nor does she let approaching death from cancer rob her of the chance to transform lives with the life and hope that is in her. Poverty is no deterrent; Mae Toi shares what she has, and she is rich in love. She sets the example for Mack that a strong spirit triumphs despite a weak body.

1. How did Mae Toi live out the READ principle?

We see Mae Toi in a downcast state for only a moment, as we learn of her poverty and her husband’s rejection. But she soon chooses a life of loving, joyful service. We do not witness her initial reaction to her cancer prognosis. We can imagine her shock, pain, and grief, and we can imagine that she might have been tempted to feel bitter or to withdraw.

But she made a different choice, as we see and hear evidence of her directing her responses on a constructive course. Mae Toi responds to a two-year prognosis as “lucky,” focusing on all that she can accomplish in two years.

Mae Toi poured herself fully into the lives of the children she took in. She redeemed Toe from a life of theft when she bailed him out from the authorities, and in a manner reminiscent of the Bishop’s grace toward Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, she transformed Toe from a hopeless taker into a loving giver of flowers in Mae Toi’s hospital room.

She picked Kitty up from the streets where she had been abandoned and gave her a loving home and a mother’s hand to clasp as Kitty gazed at the ocean and slept hugging a baby doll. Mae Toi instilled hope and a vision into Mack, so that he learned to walk and play soccer and even ran into the ocean, despite his polio-weakened legs.

2. How did she live out the SERVE principle?

S: Mae Toi’s smile and song enriched the lives of her adopted children and other patients at the hospital.

E: Mae Toi’s exploration and empathy is evident in the way she enters each of the children’s worlds. She give abandoned Kitty a mother’s hand to hold. She instills a vision in crippled Mack for walking without his brace and for playing soccer. She finds what is near to his heart and encourages him all along the way. She bails Toe out of jail and brings him home, transforming him into a boy who gives flowers as an act of love.

R: We don’t see Mae Toi reconciling, but we see her standing in the gap for others. She makes the three children feel wanted, loved and, treasured. She comforts Kitty. She helps the other soccer-playing boys see Mack as a “contender” to be included. She rescues Toe from the authorities, thereby redeeming him in a way.

V: The passion with which she invests herself in the lives of the three children and the zeal with which she sings and shares her song with all around her reveal her value for life and her value of others. She shows how valuable others are with her life, love, and acts of sharing and service, including cooking for the kids and sharing her home, food, and sleeping space.

E: Mae Toi encouraged and inspired Mack to walk, run, and play soccer. Her loving example gave Kitty the courage to trust again (holding onto Mae Toi’s hand) and to show love to a doll.

Even though Mae Toi’s time with the children would likely be cut short, she forged a family bond among them by feeding them, singing to them, sharing her home with them, and imprinting a “forever moment” on their hearts at the coast. I doubt any of the three children would ever forget the first time they saw the ocean, the awe and wonder of that sight, and then the pure joy of charging into the surf and playing together as a family. A bus ride would be an expensive luxury for Mae Toi and the children, but it was a wise investment in their lives and in the relationship they shared.

The children were also encouraged by her songs, as were the other hospital patients who heard Mae Toi singing from her hospital bed.

3. How should believing in the gospel of Christ strengthen a person’s ability to respond to a life crisis in a positive, hopeful and selfless way?

We who hope in the Gospel of Christ, of all people, should look like Mae Toi looks! We should take the loaves and fish that are in our hands and trust God to make them sufficient to bless others abundantly. We should sing with a joy that breaks down chains and sets people free from prisons of hopelessness.

I wonder whether those who traveled with Jesus for three years lived an experience like Kitty, Mack, and Toe, only much more so (since those with Jesus were with the very Son of God!)

I don’t know whether Mae Toi knows Jesus, but she certainly acts as though she does (perhaps more so than many professing believers). Believers know how the story ends: we live forever happy and blessed with Jesus. It makes me ashamed of my pity parties! Have I forgotten Whose I am? Since nothing can separate me from the love of Christ, no matter what my circumstances, my joy should overflow, like Mae Toi’s!

This is just a sample of the insightful answers I read this week. All of which put a lot of wind under my wings as I continue to learn how practice relational wisdom during the joys and trials of real life.

If you’d like to learn with me, I encourage you to download our free RW Personal Study Course. I’m going through it a second time with my family this summer, and I’m excited to see how Corlette and our two children (20 and 22) are weaving these principles into their lives. It’s never too earlier or too late to learn what God teaches us about relationships!

personal3- Ken Sande

Reflection Questions

  • Take a minute to watch the video clip once more (it’s only three minutes long), keeping in mind the insights that Carter and Lynn have shared. What do you see that you didn’t see before?
  • How can watching movies and reading books about challenging life situations help you to develop greater relational wisdom?
  • How can developing a deeper understanding of the gospel strengthen your ability to feel compassion for others and deal with life’s struggles in a hopeful manner?

Permission to distribute: Please feel free to download, print, or electronically share this message in its entirety for non-commercial purposes with as many people as you like.

© 2014 Ken Sande

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