Love for the old and the young, America to Myanmar, on FeelGood Friday

Ronald Read at breakfastLet me be clear: I love the 92 year old man. Born in 1921, Ronald Read walked to school every day, served in WWII, then worked as a janitor for 42 years, first at a gas station then the local JC Penney in Brattleboro, Vermont. Married only 10 years before his wife died, he was known as a frugal man, always wore a flannel shirt and baseball cap, ate off paper plates at the American Legion Christmas breakfast, and died last June. I already love him. Oh, but also, he was really good at picking stocks, and when he died he left $4.8 million to the local hospital, and $1.2 to his local library. And now you love him too.


So I love Ronald Read, and would happily talk about how he demonstrates the answer to humanity’s capacity for altruism without personal reward, but for these FeelGood Friday posts, I want to go right up into the horrors of the world today and find beauty in them.

Bagan was beautiful, even when I hadn't slept

Bagan was beautiful, even when I hadn’t slept

This week I had the privilege (and I use that word deliberately) to work a little bit with some refugees from Myanmar. Rampant in my privilege (there’s that word again), I hear “Myanmar” and remember Shwedagon Pagoda’s golden buddhas, Bagan’s misty morning zedis, and the rich sauces of streetfood vendors in Yangon. Their memories of Myanmar are very different.


What happened to them, there? Language barriers meant I couldn’t ask them, and I would be hesitant to pry anyway, but it had me thinking about that beautiful, but strife-ridden country. Myanmar’s improving, and I hope the corresponding tourist boom is pressure to continue forward progress, but I don’t measure real change by the statements of the government or GDP growth, I measure it in the lives and experiences of the people. So what’s happening to the most vulnerable people in Myanmar?


“In traditional Burmese culture – where men are considered superior to women and young people are bound to defer to their elders – adolescent girls are widely expected to keep their thoughts, feelings and opinions to themselves. As a result, abuses go unreported and many girls remain ignorant of their human rights or potential.” Doesn’t sound very FeelGood at first, but you need to read the rest of the article. Because the program run by Girl Determined, where these vulnerable adolescents are learning “issues such as decision-making, self-confidence, girls’ rights and planning for the future” will make you smile, and make you FeelGood on this beautiful Friday.