Semi-incoherent ramblings of a simple mind.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Truths Self Evident

A day and a night and Cambodia's left an indelible mark on my conscience. Why is it that we cry equality... and yet a man in forgotten Asia lives off of 1G a year while another of equal value in a prosperous land rolls in 30? We hold these truths to be self-evident, but we do so on cushy beds and full platters.

Driving through rural Cambodia, we passed villages, farmlands and people scraping out a living on mine rich fields, most traveling by foot along dusty roads, or if better, than by bicycle. On our way to Poipet, we passed a barren field with a single grass house raised on stilts. On the side of the dusty highway was a mud pond. In the middle of the pond were three men, with three mopeds, polishing off their prized possesions.

Back in the real world, I work in a restaurant where mothers and fathers bring their ripe children to sit and dine on holiday wine, saucy dishes and good cheer. They drop grands a night to sleep with the security of soft beds and full bellies. While on the dusty streets of Siem Reap crawl men with withered limbs, and calloused elbows. I remember one night, walking back to our guesthouse, and a man in this condition crawled up to a restaurant with street seating. Surprisingly limber, he moved on his elbows with practiced grace. But the patrons saw no man, they could only see a cripple, and some of them laughed behind discreet palms, or took pictures, while one of the lot went to ask the staff to have the beggar removed.

I am not stainless. From our balcony seat on the second floor of the restaurant where we dined for two nights in a row, Crystal and I watched the nightlife on the streets of Siem Reap. Across from us is a restaurant, again with streetside seatings. This time they're empty, but people are walking by because it's at a busy intersection. I spot a boy, about 7 or 8, with a baby strapped to his shoulder. He walks around and bumps into anyone who looks like they may have something to give. Who knows what he says to them, but for the most part the people just keep walking. Some of them actually look down at him, but they just shake their heads and look away... No, not tonight. But wait, one woman turns around after brushing him aside, looks for the wandering child, finds him and presses something into his tiny palms. He walks away and leans on a moped, smiling down at his good fortune. The owner of the bike, I assume, comes out of the restaurant to shoo him away. A few seconds later the little boy is at another persons side, calling out his little line.

My attention is caught, so I try and get Crystal's. "Look at this one," I tell her. We look down at the child from our point of view. Than Crystal says, "You know you walked right by him on our way here." After a few seconds I nod. "Yah, that's right." When we passed him, he was sitting on the curb out front, legs extended and crossed, with his eyes shut and his thin arms wrapped around the tiny baby. "I don't know... I guess I thought he was sleeping."

Eventually, it gets so hard to think of these little faces as individuals. After a while, they turn into the same face with the same voice. Palms open and waiting for the rich man to give a handout. But I'm not rich... I make just enough to live. And enough to eat. Just enough to eat out every day. More than enough to pay my bills. And enough to put away for a rainy day. Of course the occasional splurge here and there. And if somewhere sounds exotic enough, I make enough to get there on a budget. I make enough. And it's more, so much more, than what this tiny hand is asking for. So I press a bill into his hand and he walks away.

But not a few seconds later, comes another hand and another voice. This time a little different, but still the same. And they just keep coming. A split second of indecision cools me, then I quickly turn on the blank look... a cold stare at nothing in particular. I push past the small voices, and slowly make my way to the bank doors while our tuk-tuk driver waits, and watches me, from the side of the street. I peek inside to see how Crystal is doing with her withdrawal. She smiles at me reassuringly. I turn around and sit next to the security guards on the concrete bench outside, give the guards a smile, and slowly by slowly the little voices with little hands fade away.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. And yet a child in Africa will share a doctor with 2,000 other children, while a child in America will share hers with 200. But one can get so caught up, and eventually brought down, by the reality of statistics. So there is a world out there, only a few that I've witnessed but countless more that are just as real, where all men are not equal, and I can drop a bill, or two or three because I can always return home to my comfy zone and make it up and some change... but how much more can one person do? One could get dragged down by such reasoning. Or one could put on that blank stare, staring at nothing in particular, shaking their head... No, not tonight. Or one could be like the Swiss doctor who dedicates his whole life to the local hospital. Bandaging up those who need bandages, and soothing wounds with the sounds of a musical instrument. But what is one victor, in a sea of victims?

The half truth sometimes hurts. And the half truth is, Who is man to take into his own hands a responsibility that he cannot bear? But the whole truth is far from painful. In a blurr of poverty one's mind may become cloudy and his emotions fittingly stirred. But when time clears your vision, and the entire truth is evident once more, the answer to the question is two times stronger than it was before. Man is nothing. But Jehovah see's everything. And it's his responsibility to handle his creation in a manner that he see's fit.

Truthfully, the time for now is hard to bear... but it's just not Jehovah's time yet. It's comforting to remember, though, that when his time does come around, then all of the former things will have passed away. But this will take some time. Yes, all men are created equal... and only in Jehovah's time will this truth become evident.


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