Palace & Poverty.

Having grown up in Florida, the most I’d seen of poverty for most of my life was the interstate hitchhiker. Unkempt, but able to get by on the spare change of a few good samaritans. Later, in college I worked for a community service center which exposed me to the homeless community of Orlando. It was rough, but most of what I saw was a byproduct of substance abuse or untreated mental illness that resulted in a homeless lifestyle.

The poverty that exists in Cambodia is of course much different. And it is hardest to witness when the most obvious victims are children. I went for a long walk this morning, down to the riverside and the Royal Palace. The ornate palace architecture presents an impression of wealth, but when you take a closer look you find innocent children, some orphans, some employed by their homeless parents, who are sent to beg for money from wealthy foreigners.

I don’t know how to respond to this. I understand that the cycle of poverty is perpetuated in these circumstances. If tourists didn’t respond with a bleeding heart, didn’t hand out spare change, these children might be in school rather than begging on the street. But how can I deny a child the same age as my niece, who is dirty and probably hungry and asking me for money? In the moment the only reaction I have is to respond.

There are so many aspects of being here that put me in a state of constant contemplation. Only 3 full days, but I have been exposed to elements of life that I could have never understood without seeing them first hand. I haven’t come to grips with any of it yet. I’ve only begun to question.

I find that I am already starting to sympathize with this quote mentioned in the introduction of Cambodia’s Curse by Joel Brinkley:

Be careful because Cambodia is the most dangerous place you will ever visit.You will fall in love with it, and it will eventually break your heart.

The next 3 months are going to give me more education than all my years of college combined. Books can only teach you so much – being immersed in another culture, experiencing it’s beauty and it’s pain firsthand, that’s where the real learning begins.

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5 thoughts on “Palace & Poverty.

  1. Ignorance is bliss… right? It’s strange when your raising your children you love them so much that some how you always feel that some how you can try to create a world for them that protects, shields and holds them in happiness, yet it’s these expieriences that we are trying to keep at a distance, just like these little ones in your pics that change every fiber of your being and really create who you are. Your perspective on life and your journey. The beautiful vail comes off but there is trully another kind of beauty. It’s like when you say Namaste. Greeting the best in you and me. Now it is tested. If you are there in Cambodia or in Bradenton with the homeless woman you gave your clothes and shoes to. As we see these things we understand what is truly important and what can be achieved. I hope that as you meet new people and that more of your life is revealed to you that you remember what you just said to your sister, you have taken the risk to blossom. I pray for blessings on you and everyone you meet each day and hope that the expierience will fill your heart in a new way.
    All my Love to you Sweetheart! xo

  2. “If tourists didn’t respond with a bleeding heart, didn’t hand out spare change, these children might be in school rather than begging on the street. But how can I deny a child the same age as my niece, who is dirty and probably hungry and asking me for money?”

    I have had exactly the same reaction when witnessing poverty and homelessness on the streets. It’s one thing in theory to say we should walk on by and spend that money through official channels to combat poverty. But it’s another when poverty has the face of the individual before you. Thanks for understanding this quandary – I too am searching for answers.

  3. “It’s strange when your raising your children you love them so much that some how you always feel that some how you can try to create a world for them that protects, shields and holds them in happiness”.
    We experienced something similar in Bangkok and it makes you realize how where and when you’re born determines if you will be fighting for your survival each day and what you have access too.

  4. Thank you for your heart felt post, really makes one thankful for all of our blessings. As difficult as it may be at times, it feels so good knowing that caring people such as yourself have been placed there…even if for a season.

    Blessings on you,

    Connie

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