main image JH 545MamSung the Monsoon

The most hospitable person on the face of the planet.

by Brooke Hartman

At the Daughter’s house in Cambodia, where Jeff and I lived during our time here, we were cared for by MamSung: my now and forevermore image of servanthood. She is the spiritual gift of hospitality personified, with a dash of crazy and a sprinkle of obsession. She is so hospitable, we renamed her Monsoon. She swoops in at 1000 miles per hour doing things like cleaning our sandals, laying blankets on us when we nap, covering our feet when the AC is on, cutting our food, tearing our bread into pieces for us in the morning, and stirring our coffee.

When we are in her care, we are all feet-washed, pillows fluffed, clothes folded, shirt tucked, hair behind our ears, and some days, physically lifted off our seats and onto her lap in the van to escape the sun shining in through the window onto our skin. She will not hesitate to pull a tissue from her purse and wipe the peanut butter off our faces and fingers, and then provide a full body pat-down to get the bread crumbs off. She removes the seeds from our watermelon pieces.

How did I ever survive without her?!

She anticipates our exact needs before they’re even baby thoughts in our minds. The moment we contemplate, Hmm, a Coke would be nice, Mam Sung is standing behind us with two cokes and two straws. Before we’ve even realized we’ve tracked mud onto the tile, MamSung’s hands are removing our sandals and rinsing the mud off our calves.

Sometimes, she takes our towels outside to dry before we’ve even gotten them wet (like, while we’re still in the shower?!?).

MamSung sitting on our table (her bed) cutting fruit for us.

MamSung sitting on our table (her bed) cutting fruit for us.

What happens when we don’t need anything at all? Well, at those times, she invents a need. For example, one morning she stood next to the table watching us eat our cereal. Her wheels were turning as she worked out all the ways she could make our cereal-eating experience even easier. The light bulb went on, and she was delighted to add a fork to our bowls to help push the flakes onto the spoon. Puzzled, we tried it. Yep, I thought. This is easier. She beamed.

Or the time she took me off my bike, tucked my shirt into my shorts, went up through the leg opening to pull the shirt tight from underneath, pulled my unders down instead, and went right back up there for the shirt.  Did I need my shirt tucked in when I rode my bike? Evidently, yes. Did I need her to run behind me a little, holding the seat steady as I pedaled? Only MamSung knows. I probably did.

Or the time she opened up a tube of pink lipstick and put it on for me. I guess my face was looking a little bland that day.

Or the time she placed my arm around Jeff’s neck and pushed our faces together. Had she sensed a need in Jeff I hadn’t been aware of?

When someone new walks onto the compound, MamSung’s mattress is magically on our floor fully made before we can even ask for an extra sleeping pallet. We have found that not only will the bed be made, but MamSung will pull the covers down at bedtime, lift our friend’s head up and cradle it while she fluffs the pillow, gently lay the head back down, and with four extra hands, tuck our friend in while holding a jasmine flower under her nose for good measure.

We kept waiting for MamSung to have an off day, because the thing is, she does these things with so much joy! She flits and flutters and dances and laughs her way around the compound. Two months later, and we’re still waiting for that off day.

This is a woman thriving in a servant’s role, and I will not soon forget how welcome and cared for this kind of hospitality made me feel. I do not guarantee forks in your cereal bowl, but if you come to my house for dinner, I will find my inner MamSung and do my absolute best to accommodate your every whimsical and not-even-there-yet need.