Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions An Extra Thumb, Chess and Choosing Compassion

An Extra Thumb, Chess and Choosing Compassion

On her hand, the one that passed me the chess set, she had two thumbs. Two thumbs!

She had a regular thumb in the regular thumb spot and she had an extra thumb just below the regular thumb spot. It was like a thumb but a wee bit smaller, and it seemed to go along for the ride—wherever the big thumb went, the little thumb flopped along like a flotsam digit hanging on to a piece of driftwood carried by the river’s current.

My eyes followed the second thumb like a laser. As she spoke and handed me more chess sets to look at, I watched it slide around her hand, dangle free in the air and even once, as she shut one of the tops of the wooden chess boxes, she almost chopped her freeloading thumb off. It slipped out at the last possible second. Had she even known?

As we kept bartering back and forth—“Twenty-two, that’s my highest,” “No-no, I have family to feed, I need to make some money”—I couldn’t help but wonder if she had ever contemplated, seriously considered, lopping it off.

Maybe it had become a defining mark on her life? Something that set her apart, I don’t know. Maybe an extra thumb in Cambodia made you a golden child.

I was a little disappointed, though. I was in the middle of a business deal and the last thing I wanted to do was have pity for her.

Then I thought, maybe it was a good business decision to keep the thumb to trick dumb Americans into buying overpriced chess sets, as I was weakening.

“Twenty-five, that’s my final,” I said, but I hardly meant it.

When we first met the children, our children, at Prek Eng, it was like meeting long-lost friends.

As we entered the gates, we received a blitzkrieg of hugs and embraces from the 20 kids at the Seeds of Hope Orphanage. It was wild, really, like something you’d see on Oprah. We passed out gifts we had bought at the market, mostly dolls for the girls and soccer balls for the boys and plenty of candy. We couldn’t even communicate with our children—we could only smile and laugh and play.

I began to get close to one of the boys, his name was So Pat. He was a ham. Everything he did was genuinely funny.

The children had arranged a special program for us with traditional singing and dancing. Each song and dance had a unique name and story, like the fish dance and the flower dance. It was so different—the rhythms, the moves, the music.

I couldn’t help but think of God’s deep love for these children.