I felt awkward in the nearly see-through shirt of long lace. But I supposed that maintaining tradition was more important than modesty, especially on an island like Bali where one can spend an entire day walking around town in a bathing suit. Santai saw the concerned expression on my face when I analyzed how easily my undergarments could be seen through the bright pink lace and she said “No worries! It’s fine!” All the other women were wearing long, button-up blouses of lace or silk, like the one Made’s wife, Wayan had fitted onto me. “Good. I’m not the only one.” I thought. Like the other women, I too had a sarong skirt wrapped several times around my waste. My ragged old scarf tied the ensemble together, serving as a sash for the afternoon visit to Wayan’s family temple. Every fifteen days Hindu families like Made’s will go to the family temple to pray with their relatives.
For Hindus every fifteen days, this is a series of devotional acts. It is participation. Flower petals were passed out by a leader of sorts, then lifted to the head three times in between clasped hands. Water was sprinkled on our heads, and those around me drank from their cupped hands three times as the leader filled their palms with a small, brass teapot of water. Lastly, I watched as everyone dipped their dampened fingers into dry rice, pressing the rice granules onto their foreheads so that the little white dots stuck in there above their eyes.
I watched as Made’s family prayed around me and I prayed with them, in my own way.
I thought: jabbered privately inside my head where only God and I can hear what’s being shared. I prayed with Made’s family, wordlessly and with open, watching eyes. I thanked God. I asked Him to show me how to Love like He Loves: to serve like He serves. I asked Him to bless this kind family. I thought. I watched.
Prayer… Mankind has been trying to communicate with the divine our entire existence on the earth, and I am amazed to see the many ways in which we have learned to reach out or rather up. I have met people for whom prayer is walking: silently listening. I have met others for whom prayer is the burning of incense and the slow, chanting of ancient writings. I have met others for whom prayer is the burning of a candle and the passionate pleas of our deepest concerns.
As a kid, I used to bow my head in silence at my Amish relatives’ houses. We closed our eyes and waited to hear the eldest male stir. Usually the sound of a spoon being moved or a cup being lifted meant that the prayer was finished. Prayer. Silence. I even remember a few occasions when we happened to be out in public with my Amish relatives in places as far from our country Ohio town as California. This was an adventurous trip. My family of five joined my Amish Aunt and Uncle and their two youngest children on a road-trip across the great American West. I think of that trip often, even as I survey Asia now. The sight of an eagle or the playful river through a mountain makes me think of that trip out west.
I’ve always been quite proud of my Amish relatives for bravely leaving their small town and joining us on that trip. If anyone would have done it, it was bound to be my Aunt Mary’s family. She has a prsonality that shines with warmth. In the most humble way, she always seemed to challenge Amish stereotypes and offer a loving acceptance of any quirk or oddity no matter how different it seemed to the Amish community. A roadtrip for example is not exactly a common adventure for Amish families. She is to this day, not surprisingly, the only aunt I have hiked the grand canyon with. Right along side her non-amish neices in her long Amish dress she followed us down into the hot canyon trail.
At the diners we stopped at, sometimes we bowed our heads in silent prayer.
My aunt is sick, so now I pray.
I think: jabber to the divine in my thoughts.
I bow my head in silent prayer.
I breath in the incense around me.
Perhaps in your own ways, you can pray too. It would mean a lot to me.