How To Write an Opinion That People Will Listen To

Two weeks ago I wrote an opinionated blog post titled “When Even a Mug is Too Much.” Using that post as a model, I’m going to tell you everything I’ve learned, after 12 years of blogging, about writing opinions that people will listen to.

Step 1: Form an opinion

Form an opinion. Don’t just copy one you saw on the internet.

Step 2: Connect your opinion to a story about your life

Let’s say you have a strong opinion about pit bulls. Humans are storytellers. We want to know why you have that opinion. Did you rescue a pit bull that everyone else was scared to adopt, only to have it be the most wonderful pet you could have imagined? Was your niece almost mauled by a pit bull? The story will serve as the heart of your opinion.

In my mug post, I connected my opinion on sustainability to an incident in which my very liberal teacher brought a disposable coffee cup to class every day, and yet thought it was odd that I brought a reusable mug.

Step 3: Write the rough draft

The post should have two parts: the story section, and the opinion section. First, briefly write down the story. Then start ranting about your opinion. Write everything you’ve always wanted to say on the subject.

I usually feel particularly rant-y right before bed. When I wrote my mug post, I couldn’t sleep because I was ranting in my head, so I vented to my blog. Then I saved it as a draft, to refine later.

The story portion was 262 words long. The opinion portion was 459 words.

Step 4: Delete the majority of your rant

People get so fired up about their opinions that they end up saying the same things over and over. This bogs the reader down. You want your opinion to be as sharp and concise as possible.

As an example of this, in my mug post, I came up with an analogy that I thought was so perfect. My rough draft read as follows, misspellings and all. (Remember, I was trying to type on my phone.)

A democrat and a republican were walking one day, when they came to a bridge. It was the only bridge in two miles. Peering closely at the bridge, the democrat said, “I don’t think that bridge is safe to cross.”
“Whatever,” said the Republican.
“No, I’m serious,” said the Democrat. “Look, the wood is rotten. Some of the support posts are buckeling. This bridge needs serious help. If it doesn’t break beneith us, we’ll weaken it so badly that the next people to walk across will fall through.”
“I don’t believe you,” said the Republican. “I’ve walked across this bridge before and it was fine.”
The Democrat was so frustrated. “It’s so obvious!” she said. And she pulled out some civil engeneering reports to show him, aranging the data into some easy-to-comprehend flowcharts.”
The republican schrugged. “I still don’t buy it,” she said.
Exhausted from trying to convince the republican, the democrat gave up. “Fine,” she said. “But when that bridge collapses, we’ll know who was right.” And in her heart she knew that morally, she believed the right thing.

With this settled, they both walked over the bridge. (Obviously. The next bridge was two miles out of the way)

In my edit, I thought, “what is the essence of what I am trying to say here?” and, “how can I say that in as few words as possible?”

I deleted sentence after sentence, and my final draft read as follows:

Democrats and Republicans, I’ve decided, are like two people who passionately argue about whether a bridge is structurally sound, and then both proceed to cross it anyway, because going downstream to the next bridge is too much bother.

Say exactly what you are trying to say, and no more. Delete, delete, delete. I went from a 459 word opinion section to a 248 word opinion section.

Step 5: Refine your story

In the story portion, focus on telling the story well. What parts should you tell first? What parts are irrelevant to your opinion? What details will draw your reader in?

In my mug post, I originally began my story this way:

Some teachers hide their political affiliation well. He didn’t. “I don’t know who you’re voting for,” he said, clutching his paper Allen Brothers coffee cup, “but, I mean, I hope it’s really obvious who you’re voting for.”

When Trump won he came to class looking a bit shell-shocked, as though the world wasn’t anything like he’d supposed it to be, all these years. His daily dose of caffeine was in his hand, perhaps the only thing keeping him functional.
One day he asked me about my mug.

Why did I begin my story with my professor’s political affiliation? That wasn’t the most interesting part. I switched things up, and began with the actual incident.

My writing professor walked into the classroom, set his paper Allan Brothers coffee cup on his desk, and hung his leather messenger bag over the back of his chair. His eyes swept around the circle of our desks, and came to rest on me. Looking both bewildered and bemused, he said, “can I ask you a question?”

“Sure,” I said.

“How does that work, you bringing a mug to class?”

Opinions should be stated in as few words as possible, but sometimes we need space to craft our stories well. The story section of my mug post was 262 words long in the rough draft, but I expanded it to 358 words in my final published post.

Other things to think about: Should I keep my story at the very beginning, or would it work better later on in the blog post? Should I use multiple stories to get my point across? Play with different options.

Step 6: Proofread your post, trying to see from the eyes of your audience

When you write an opinion, someone will misunderstand you. That is a sad reality of life.

Still, try to keep the misunderstandings to a minimum. Imagine your grandma reading it. Imagine your liberal neighbor reading it. Imagine your friend from elementary school clicking the link on Facebook and thinking about you again for the first time in years. What would be confusing to them? Re-word it. What would needlessly offend them? Consider adding a disclaimer.

Disclaimers are sticky subjects though, as too many will bog down your argument and make you seem a bit wishy-washy. I added a small disclaimer in my mug post, because I realized that I was painting liberal college students with a really broad brush. I wrote:

Granted, some people live very consistently with their values, and I respect that a lot.

Step 7: Publish!

Publish your opinion. Refresh your computer screen until you get your first comment. Edit your opinion post to clarify the thing they misunderstood. Go eat a cookie. Come back and find that three people think you’re amazing and one person thinks you’re judgmental. Panic. Draft three responses to their comment before deciding to just let it go.

Congratulations, you have published an opinion that people listen to.

This has been day 22 of the April Blogging Challenge. On day 20, mom posted about parenting teenage girls, and on day 21 Jenny wrote about things she wishes she could tell her younger self.

My Day in Candid Snaps

In an attempt to make a visually-focused blog post, I tried to take pictures of everything I did today. I was only moderately successful. Behold, my effort:

First, my morning routine began the way you all expected it would.

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I made myself a breakfast of hummus and avocado on toast. It was kind-of meh. Next time I’ll go back to cream cheese instead of hummus.

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At 10:10 or so I headed to school. The skies were grayer than I’d like, but it wasn’t raining. Yet.

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I parked in the residential section of town, and walked to class.

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Oops, forgot to feature my tea in the picture. Let me fix that real quick.

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I walked onto campus, and over to Shepherd Hall, where the Speech Communication department is housed. Shepherd Hall looks a bit like a fairy tale cottage. I slipped in the back door (circled in red).

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I’d committed to taking pictures of my day, but once I was inside my class I felt weird snapping pictures of people’s faces. So I took pictures of their feet instead.

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My Ethnography of Communication class lasted 50 minutes, and then I headed over to the Memorial Union to eat lunch with a bunch of Christian professors and grad students.

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At this point I completely forgot to take pictures, so I ran back later and snapped a picture of the sign beside the door.

Anyway, it was really interesting. The professors mostly talked about what it’s like to be a person of faith on a secular campus.

Presently I had to leave the interesting discussion and head to my Style and the Sentence class, where I suddenly remembered that I was supposed to take pictures of my day. I whipped out my phone and took a quick snap.

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I mentioned the textbook for this class in my post about what I’ve been reading lately, and a commenter wrote, “I really want to know what weird things I do that muddle up my writing because I’m trying to sound smarter. Can you give some examples?”

Here is one example, from the textbook: “Once upon a time, as a walk through the woods was taking place on the part of little red riding hood, the wolf’s jump out from behind the tree occurred, causing her fright.”

This sentence is needlessly complex. The subjects of the sentence are “walk” and “jump,” and the verbs are “was taking place” and “occurred.” However, the characters are little red riding hood and the wolf, and their actions are “walking” and “jumping.” Making the characters into subjects and the actions into verbs simplifies the sentence tremendously.

“Once upon a time, as little red riding hood walked through the woods, a wolf jumped out from behind the tree, frightening her.”

It seems like a simple rule, but you’d be surprised how often writers take the actions and turn them into the subjects, writing things like, “Our lack of data prevented evaluation of UN actions in targeting funds to areas most in need of assistance.”

So. Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace, by Joseph Williams, is about things like that.

Anyway, during class we got into groups and did sentence deconstruction worksheets, and then class ended and the rain began.

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I had an hour to kill until my next class, so I went to the library and got online.

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My Advanced Intercultural Communication class was originally in Shepherd Hall, the fairy tale cottage I mentioned earlier, but the classroom was too small so we moved to Strand Ag. Strand Ag is technically a much nicer building than Shepherd, but honestly it always feels so cold to me.

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After this I forgot to take pictures again. We read folklore in class, and discussed what inferences we can make about a culture’s values from their folklore. Fascinating.

It was raining really hard after class, and my friend Yasmeen walked me to my car because she had an umbrella and I didn’t. I told her that I’m not used to carrying umbrellas around. Oregonians tend to pride themselves on not using them. She thought that was rather silly.

Walking through a downpour with someone, trying to stay under the same tiny umbrella, feels kind-of like being in a three-legged race.

That was the end of my school day. I drove home, and Jenny was rushing around, headed to some event or other.

“I want to get a streetstyle photograph!” I told Jenny, because I liked her outfit.

She struck a model pose.

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Everything I did after that was boring. It mostly consisted of eating spaghetti and putting random words on my photos using Microsoft paint.

So. That picture of Jenny was my last candid snap of the day.

April Blogging Challenge update: On day 18 (yesterday) Jenny posted a tutorial on how to bleach-dye a t-shirt. On day 17, Mom posted about fabric.

Redemption

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It’s Easter today, the Christian holiday where we wear our prettiest spring dresses and celebrate the fact that Jesus rose from the dead, that the winter of weeping is over, that death has been swallowed up in victory.

To be honest, there was no pretty new dress for me this year, and no enchanting sunrise service on a pretty mist-covered hill. Instead I had a headache and a sore knee, and I slept in, missing Sunday school and rushing out the door with no time to wash my hair. But sometimes words run through my head like snatches of music, and today’s was decidedly Easter-themed. “Redemption…redemption…redemption…”

I didn’t realize that redemption was such an important part of my worldview until I had to read a deeply troubling story in my writing class last fall. As we discussed it, I could tell that my classmates were also disturbed. I am quite sensitive to creepy stories, and this one felt demonic to me, even though though there was nothing overtly “supernatural” about the story. It affected me so deeply that I had a lot of trouble sleeping.

I couldn’t put my finger on what was so awful about the story. There were disturbing and unkind characters, and completely unjust deaths, but many stories, including ones from the Bible, contain these elements.

Why did the story feel so demonic to me?

And then I realized why: there was no redemption in the story.

The bad things happened, and that was it. No hope. Nothing came of the evil except more evil.

When I realized this, I made up my own epilogue to the creepy story, deliberately extending redemption to each character. The innocent characters had their voices heard, instead of being shamed into silence. The people who died met Jesus in heaven. The evil people repented of their sin. Parents and children reconciled. The characters openly talked about what had happened, and forgave each other.

After I imagined a redemption for each character, the bout of insomnia left me and I slept peacefully once again.

This experience affected me deeply, and made me think about the differences between that utterly hopeless story and stories that are told from a Christian worldview. The core of the Christian worldview, I realized, is redemption. Bad things happen because we live in a broken world where people do horrible things to each other, and yet we cling to our hope of redemption. The whole Biblical narrative is full of awful things happening to people, but the thread of redemption runs through it all.

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
whom he has redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.

Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to a city to dwell in;
hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way
till they reached a city to dwell in.

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
For he satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

(Psalm 107: 2-9)

And then, Christ’s death and resurrection, and the ultimate redemption of the burden of sin everyone had suffered through during the majority of the Bible.

Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)

And this is what Easter means to me. This is why I’ve clung to my faith through chronic illness and severe depression and the tragic death of a family member. I believed that there was redemption for my story. I’ve seen redemption happen, both to myself and others, and it is beautiful and life-changing.

We may weep, as the disciples did when Jesus was dead, and hope seemed far away. But in the end, death loses, and life wins.

Mom’s ABC post 14, about shame, can be found here.

Jenny’s ABC post 15, about our recent hike to Opal Creek, is located here.

What I’ve Been Reading

Recently I’ve been reading an odd mish-mash of books, mostly ones I’m obligated to read or just found lying around. Still, I like to talk about the books I read, even the odd or boring ones.

So here we go, my latest thoughts about books.

 

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Jesus’ Son, by Dennis Johnson.

I’m reading this book for my Advanced Fiction Writing class. It’s a bunch of stories about a shiftless drug addict who drives around in cars a lot.

After my classmates spent about twenty minutes discussing the deep meanings in this book, and trying to figure out how they linked together into a longer narrative, I raised my hand. “Did he write them intending to link them together?” I asked. “It seems to me like he just wrote a bunch of random stories about the same character, and then decided to throw them all together in a book.”

My teacher responded by saying that we should always assume that an author did what they did intentionally.

Fair enough.

Then, my teacher said that he’d read interviews of Dennis Johnson, the author, in which Johnson claimed he just wrote the stories randomly and then was like, “I’ve got these stories, anybody want to publish them?”

Wait, so I was right?

“But I don’t think that could possibly be how it was,” my teacher continued. “He must have been joking. He must have carefully crafted this novel to be what it is.”

I giggled to myself. Someday maybe I’ll write something disjointed and full of pretty words and deep themes of life and death, and fool all the literary people into thinking the things that randomly tumbled from my mind were INTENTIONAL.

(Honestly, I like literary fiction a lot more when I think of it as just a book like any other book. When I’m supposed to think it’s something special, enlightened, above the common fray, I get a little cynical.)

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Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace, by Joseph Williams, is one of the best books on writing I’ve ever read. It’s the textbook for my Style and the Sentence class.

To be honest, when I signed up for the class I was kinda dubious. I needed it to get my writing minor, but a whole class dedicated to sentences? Really?

But this book made up for it.

Straight to the point. Practical. It doesn’t just say “make your writing clearer,” it breaks it down to the sentence level and shows WHAT weird things we do to try to “sound smarter” that make our writing unreadable. I can think of a few (hundred) academic writers who should have read this book.

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The Substitute Guest, by Grace Livingston Hill

I picked up this book because I was house sitting, needed a book to read, and pulled this off the shelf. There was nothing special to the story, but on the bright side, there were no deep over-dramatic feelings either. I continued to read as the main character tried to deliver some medicine to a remote castle on a mountain in a blizzard, got stranded at a farmhouse, and spent Christmas with a nice homey family which included a cute blue-eyed young lady.

I suppose he’ll fall in love with her, but I won’t ever know for sure because I found a bookshelf in the attic with a more interesting book on the shelf.

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Gerald and Elizabeth, by D.E. Stevenson

A few years ago I asked for book recommendations on this blog, and one reader suggested I read books by D.E. Stevenson, particularly Miss Buncle’s Book. I loved Miss Buncle’s Book, but wasn’t such a fan of the Amberwell series I read later. I don’t tend to like novels that take place over a long period of time. (Also the thing I like least about L.M. Montgomery’s writing, and the reason I like The Blue Castle the best of her books.)

Anyway.

So far I’m a big fan of Gerald and Elizabeth. I like that it focuses on a relationship that isn’t a romantic one. I’m interested in the way it addresses mental illness. It’s also interesting in the way it addresses the oddness of being close to someone who’s famous.

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Love Your God With All Your Mind, by J.P. Moreland

The Christian Grad Fellowship I hang out with is reading this book this term. I’ve only read the first chapter so far, but as an academic I love the premise that our faith should be based on logical well-thought-out premises, not just on our “feelings.” I would be curious to know how it comes across to non-academics.

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The Napoleon of Notting Hill, by Gilbert Chesterton

I recently read this for an online book club I have with some of my friends, and quite enjoyed it, despite it’s odd nature. It’s about an England of the future in which the king (who is randomly selected by lottery) views his position as a great joke. Meanwhile, this kid from Notting Hill (a borough of London) decides to fight an epic battle for Notting Hill independence, and takes it SO SERIOUSLY. I finished the book thinking it was an interesting absurd story meant to point out that 1. human nature will keep the world from ever becoming truly “progressive,” and 2. some things are worth taking seriously and some things are worth joking about, and either extreme causes trouble.

The other book club members thought it meant different things, so I guess the jury’s still out on what it REALLY means.

I suppose Google would probably tell me.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?

Also, do you have any good book recommendations?

Finally, this has been day 13 of the April Blogging Challenge. Jenny wrote on day 12 here, and Mom wrote on day 11 here.

 

Never-Before Seen Smucker Sibling Footage

Today is siblings day (in 49 states) so I decided to dig back in the archives to find some forgotten footage of my siblings.

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This is the current crop of Smucker siblings. Matt (with the cool shades) is 30, Amy (in the glasses and scarf, looking absolutely aghast) is 28, I (winding up to clobber my brother) am 26, Ben (preparing to be clobbered) is 23, Steven (in the mysterious wolf shirt) is 22, and Jenny (looking into Matt’s hair with disgust) is 17.

No introduction, no matter how weird, can prepare you for the videos you are about to see.

Exhibit A, staring Jenny, Steven, and Ben. (And also my mom.)

 

Exhibit B. Steven and I decided to prank Ben. Jenny sat on top of the refrigerator. She used to do that a lot.

 

And finally, exhibit C, featuring the voice of Amy, and Jenny being cute.

 

Matt, apparently, was much to cool to be in any of our goofy videos.

I could yammer about my siblings for a long time, but the essence of what I’d say would be this: I like them. They’re cool. They get my jokes.

This has been April Blogging Challenge Day 10. To read Day 9, written by Jenny, click here, and Day 8, by Mom, is here.

When Even a Mug is Too Much

My writing professor walked into the classroom, set his paper Allan Brothers coffee cup on his desk, and hung his leather messenger bag over the back of his chair. His eyes swept around the circle of our desks, and came to rest on me. Looking both bewildered and bemused, he said, “can I ask you a question?”

“Sure,” I said.

“How does that work, you bringing a mug to class?”

I looked at the ceramic mug of tea on my desk. “Well,” I said, “instead of paying for a hot beverage I just bring a mug and some tea to school, and get hot water for free from the hot water dispensers.”

“And you just…carry it around in your backpack?” he asked, even more bewildered.

“Yeah…” I said. I mean, it was a mug, not a live manatee or a sewing machine. Mugs fit into backpacks.

He shook his head, laughing a bit, out of words.  My classmates looked equally confused. “doesn’t it, like, break?” one of them wanted to know.

“They’re pretty sturdy,” I said. “And besides, you can buy another mug for 25 cents at a thrift store.”

“I’d be afraid of breaking it,” my classmate muttered. And then my professor took a swig from his paper coffee cup and we got on with the lesson of the day.

Still, the incident buzzed around in my brain.

Most of my professors make an attempt to hide their political affiliation, but this particular professor was pretty bad at it. “I don’t know who you’re voting for,” he’d say, “but I really hope I know who you’re voting for, based on the options we have.” He’d begin class with a cynically amused dissection of the latest terrible thing Trump had said, and when Trump won he was visibly shaken.

He never mentioned climate change specifically, but it’s fairly reasonable to assume, based on his obvious partisanship, that he believed climate change to be a real, human caused, threat.

So why, I mean really, WHY would he bring a new disposable coffee cup to class every single day, and look with bewilderment at the girl who used a mug?

Democrats and Republicans, I’ve decided, are like two people who passionately argue about whether a bridge is structurally sound, and then both proceed to cross it anyway, because going downstream to the next bridge is too much bother.

My campus is full of people who embrace liberal ideas but refuse to live their life any differently if it’s the slightest bit inconvenient. Their virtue lies in KNOWING the right thing, not in DOING the right thing. Granted, some people live very consistently with their values, and I respect that a lot. But SO many share “I’m right you’re wrong” climate change infographics on Facebook, but find carrying a mug in their backpack to cut down on waste to be too much bother. They may hope that governments and corporations make climate-friendly policy changes, but governments and corporations are made up of people. If none of those people are willing to go to a little inconvenience to live a sustainable life, why on earth would the corporations and governments be interested in doing so?

Me, I refuse to participate in your politicized climate change debate. I will try to live as sustainably as I can because honestly, I think consumerism is a form of gluttony, and I don’t want to be part of that system.

But don’t tell me that the system is killing us and then refuse to change your behavior, as though the mere fact that you know and I don’t will absolve you of guilt.

April Blogging Challenge day 6, written by Jenny.

April Blogging Challenge day 5, written by Mom.

ABC day 4: The Token “Needy People Who We Can Help”

My sister Amy is an English tutor at North Chiang Mai University (NCU) in Thailand. Recently she emailed me about a trip she took with some NCU students, and I was absolutely fascinated by her account. With her permission, I’m re-posting her experience here. 
In January, my new group staff who study with me invited me to go with them for a “volunteer activity” back in the mountains. It was a very eventful trip.
I had assumed that for an official school activity like this we would take a couple of the university’s nice comfy vans. But no, instead, we took the rattly old truck. The seats along the sides were folded up to better accommodate the luggage and donations that filled about a third of the space, and there were at least 15 people crowded into the remaining space.

We took multiple long breaks as we went. Eventually, we got to the main city of the district where our destination village was located, and met up with a bunch of people from another school and ate breakfast of sticky rice and grilled pork. I hadn’t realized it before this, but this trip was not organized by NCU; instead, we were just sort of added onto a trip planned by another, larger university in Chiang Mai.

There were about 20 vehicles all together, and most of them were fairly capable looking. There were two of those rattly old trucks, though; ours, and one from the other university, which was completely packed full of donations for the people in the village. From the district office on, the road was dirt, and it hadn’t had a chance to completely dry out yet from the rain the last couple of days. The old trucks got stuck and just couldn’t make it. Our truck was able to get unstuck within a few minutes both times, but the other took a long time and a lot of pushing.

Thanks to the stuck trucks and the frequent rest stops, we were past the estimated 6-hour travel time, and the end was nowhere in sight. We drove on and on and on, on that narrow, one-lane road, around tight curves and through awful potholes and past lovely scenery that we didn’t even appreciate because we were so ready to be done. Our poor driver had never encountered roads like this before, and his nerves were about shot. Finally, at almost 3 p.m., nearly 12 hours after we left the university, we arrived in the little village that we were trying to get to.

So why did we end up in this village, anyway, out of all the hundreds of villages in Chiang Mai, most of which are much easier to reach? Well, first of all, you have to understand about the hill tribes. There are a lot of different tribal groups who have immigrated to Thailand in the last couple of hundred years. Most of them have come from China or Myanmar, and many of them have made homes in remote mountain villages. The Karen are probably the largest of the hill tribe groups, but there are about 5 other main groups, and more smaller ones.

While they learn Thai in school, they speak their tribal languages as their mother tongue, and many of them are not given Thai citizenship. They tend to be poor and less educated. Many of the manual labor jobs in the city are done by tribal people, who earn less than $10 per day. If you met one on the street you probably couldn’t tell the difference between them and an ethnically Thai person, but the Thai people can usually tell. These “hill tribe” people tend to be looked down on as lower class, yet simultaneously pitied. They have become the token “needy people who we can help” for the Thai people. What’s not to love about a project like this? After all, the pictures look great. Adorable children in their tribal outfits, with a backdrop of majestic mountains. And what better way to feel good about yourself than to give something to someone who’s worse off than you, and tell yourself that you’re improving their life? And if you can take a trip to an exotic location with your good friends at the same time, well, why not?

When I went to a similar village with the church youth group, at least we spent some time with the local people, visiting their homes and talking to them. This time, though, the visitors stayed in their own groups, hanging out with their friends from university. When the official activities were finished, our group built a fire outside the classroom where we were sleeping, and started pulling out the stash of beer that they’d brought along. Up the hill, students from the other university had been drinking for a while already, and they blared their music loud. It could have been a perfect night, with the fire and the stars, but all of the peace and quiet was ruined. I was tired anyway, so I put in my earplugs and rolled up in my sleeping bag and went off to sleep, but not without feeling sorry for any villagers who may have been attempting to sleep.

The next morning we did some games and stuff with the children, and then it was time to Give Them Stuff, the main point of the trip. The villagers sat in rows, and one row at a time, filed forward, and came back with their arms loaded with clothing and blankets and ramen noodles and unhealthy snacks.

The picture just seemed wrong to me, waltzing in and giving them what we thought they needed but never even getting to know them. On top of this, I knew that a different group had done the same thing in this village last year, and I wondered about whether we were helping to perpetuate a culture of relying on others for handouts instead of being self-sufficient. So I mentioned it to my Christian Thai friend, who was also along. “Do you really think it’s a good thing to just give them all of this stuff?” I asked her. She agreed that it probably wasn’t, and mentioned a guy at NCU who was from a small hill tribe village and grew up living in a children’s home and having people come give him stuff like this all of the time. “He always asks to borrow money, but he never pays it back,” she said. “It’s like he thinks people should just give him money because he’s poor. But he doesn’t try to get a job.” She told me that many of the men in this village are unemployed as well, and just sit around and drink and don’t do much else. And it seemed to be true—near our campfire, some village men had built a fire of their own, and in the morning the area near their fire was filled with beer bottles and trash.

The trip home was much shorter, only 7 hours instead of 12, thanks to a drier road and fewer frivolous rest stops. It was scary, though, going up and down and around tight curves on those mountain roads, slinging back and forth. If I didn’t hang on tight it felt like I would slide out the back when we were going up hills. But finally we made it home.

April Blogging Challenge day 2, written by my mom, can be found here. Day 3, written by Jenny, can be found here.