Thursday, September 30, 2010
Saturday, September 25, 2010
One thing that is kind of a problem in Cambodia, especially in the places where there are more tourists, is children that persistently beg for money and food. When I was in Siem Reap (the town where are the ancient temples are located), children there knew exactly when and where to be to bombard tourists and foreigners. They also knew exactly who to ask and what to say and how to manipulate people into giving them money. Begging is a lifestyle and a job for them, and many have perfected their art.
Everything I had previously read before coming to Cambodia talked about exactly what I observed almost instantly. They also consistently said that it was not a good idea for foreigners to give these children anything, because it just perpetuates the culture of begging. When I was in Siem Reap, I immediately took on the role of a tourist and avoided giving these children money or buying things. Not only that, but my heart was super hardened, and I wasn’t even kind to victims of landmines who also beg for money. It’s so easy to do in the US: when you see a homeless person on the street, you just walk on by. When you see the war vets that sit on the interstate and highway exits asking for work or a ride, you very tactfully look the other direction. At least, I know I do. And apparently I brought that terrible attitude with me to Cambodia.
But then I realized something. I’m not a tourist in this country. I didn’t get on a huge airplane to come here and ignore the people who need the most help. The next two years are not about me having all that I want and need, but are more about me sacrificing all that I have to help the people of Cambodia, and more importantly, sharing, AND SHOWING, the love and light of Christ.
When I really, really think about it, the task becomes daunting. There are millions of people in this country, and the majority of them are extremely poor. How, in two short years can I help them all? As much as I would love to pack every single street child I see in my suitcase and bring them home with me to take care of them, I know that’s not realistic. As much as I would love to just throw all my money out in the streets like candy in a parade, again, not very realistic. As much as I would love to buy 5 or 6 little bracelets every time I go to the beach, is that really the best thing to do? Ultimately, I want to be able to help these children, but not just by giving them money every time I see them, but by giving them a friend, praying for them, and hopefully being able to tell them all about the awesome gift of our Savior. THAT really is the best thing I can give.
I’m writing this not because I have found the solution to this problem that I want to share with everyone, but because I really am having a hard time getting my head and my heart to communicate on this issue. Thankfully, it is only day 7 here. I have like 728 days to work it out. If anyone has any practical suggestions or ideas to help these kids, please share!