Friday, February 29, 2008

Begging

So there are a lot of beggars in town. Not an overwhelming number, but definitely a lot. It's not usually a very difficult thing for me to encounter them, as I have no problem looking them in the eyes, smiling, shaking my head and saying "no". I tell myself that the best thing I can do is to not reinforce the idea that food and money come from white people, and I do what I can to humanize them by encountering them as people.

This isn’t always easy, as there are many hard cases. There’s the lady with the huge goiter on her neck, the many kids with malformed arms or legs (agent orange?), the THOUSANDS of land mine victims with missing eyes, legs, hands, etc, the young mothers with their naked babies… the list goes on.

Well, the other day, on the way back from a quick trip to Saigon (so I could re-enter the country on an NGO visa), while we were waiting for the ferry to take our bus back across the Mekong, a young boy (8?), wearing some baggy shorts looked at me through the glass into my air conditioned bus and pointed at his open mouth. I did my usual – I smiled, mouthed the word “no”, and shook my head. He was really cute though, and turned up the pitiful face. I kept watching as he came up to the bus door and stepped up on the entry.

I was in the third row, and had eaten a lunch from the restaurant near the border crossing. I had forgotten, but in my stew was a big piece of liver(?) or something gross, which I ate around and kept in the to-go box. When I was finished with my lunch I had re-placed the rubber band around the box, stuck it in it’s plastic bag, and tied the handles. I stuck this under the seat in front of me to be cleaned up by the steward guy.

Somehow, the Khmer guy in front of me knew this bag of trash was under his seat, and he reached down and gave it to the shirtless kid. The kid stepped off the bus, back into my sight, and proceeded to scavenge through my lunch trash – something he was used to by the look of it – ripped through the bag and found this chunk of liver. His face brightened when he saw it. I then watched as he took a bite out of the liver and smiled at the Khmer guy as he walked off.

I don’t know if I’m able to communicate why this encounter moved me so much, but it was only through sobs I was able to tell Naomi about it later the next day. It wasn’t that the kid was in such a bad condition, but I think it was the accidental way I was able to see my world and this kid’s world interact. The thought that came to mind was “This is real life for this kid”. This isn’t just a vacation or a trip or some temporary adventure – this is his world. This is all he knows.

4 comments:

caljoy said...

Your thoughts did come across Josh and hit hard.
Also some people live on our throw aways....
too much to comprehend.
Joy

elissa said...

Hey Josh
Sounds like you are having some interesting adventures in your corner of the the world. Thanks for sharing a link to your blog on facebook!
elissa

Matt Aalseth said...

Hey Josh,

I found your blog! After a quick read I have to say that I'm really excited to see what God's doing in your life and in Naomi's life. I hope He blesses your ministry and your life like crazy while you there.

Matt Aalseth

stevehenn said...

Josh, watch where you step with those landmines. Thanks for posting the photos of the bike and other stuff. Everything is going well at Public Works. We miss you big time!