Lessons From Cambodia: Free Exchange of Love
“Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don’t impose it on others. You’re fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you’re not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe—some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them—then you know that you’re out of line. If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong.”-Romans 14:22-23 MSG-
The past few weeks have been remarkable. Our trip to Cambodia has proven to be very beneficial and legendary. When visiting other countries it’s easy to fall into the tourist trap. Before leaving your home country, you make an itinerary of all the things you want to do and see. You have a list of all the things on your bucket list you want to check off. You create a budget of all the money you want to spend. However, a tourist sometimes fail to learn from the people of the land. Accommodations are booked at lavish hotels, far from the real authentic scene of how the people of the land are living. Don’t get me wrong, nothing’s wrong with the tourist scene, in my opinion, it just doesn’t give the whole truth about the land I am visiting.
As I visited unforeseen sights and had the opportunity to interact with the natives. I learned guide books, itineraries, hotel accommodations, traveling money- all of my efforts in preparing for this trip were aimed at the history that represented the past. Lavish beaches that somehow reflects “paradise.” Ancient Ruins that reflected endless temples built for ancient gods. Enslaved elephants parading tourist around, as if they are royality. Merchants are quick to sell their goods to foreigners, because they know they’ll get more than its actual worth. All these things happen all around us. Colluding our true sense of reality. As young children run to us tourist, trying to sell us items that takes away from their worth as young human beings. We, tourist, fail at times. We fail to see the truth. We fail to see them, the people that represent these countries, we are blinded by arrays of colors, traditional fabrics, paintings and clothing. We fail to see their daily living situations.
The greatest commandment in the Bible is to love your neighbour as yourself. The greatest exchange of love is to share life stories, experiences and virtues with the people that surrounds you. The greatest exchange of love is to listen, to understand, to gain knowledge, reflect, write and only then speak. It’s too easy to get caught up with our differences. But, if we listen intently with ears of understanding, we will realize there are more similarities than differences.
We create the difference by highlighting them in our minds. We lose the sense of humanity, by judging how others live and conduct their lives. So much so, we fail to see our own faults and frailties. Not realizing we, too, struggle with the same things just at a different scale. Who are we to judge? Who are we to pretend we have it all together? After all, we do flock to their country to escape our realities for sometime. Aren’t we, tourist, running away from our own personal demons, while they, the people of the land live with confronting their realities, their demons daily? In many ways they are stronger than us tourist that flock to their land with loads of cash, (we really don’t have) once or twice a year.
We, tourist, need to stop painting a picture of a poor country with helpless desperate people. Truth be told that’s not always the case. The people that represent these “poor” countries are built strong. Stronger than I’ll ever be. They have learned to live life despite their limitations. They have accustomed themselves in finding joy in the small things: family, life and love for each other. They have a heightened sense and awareness of community more than I’ll ever be able to understand. My westernized eyes use to look at them with pity. But, they have taught me the beauty of appreciation, compassion and assimilation.
This trip to Cambodia has taught me these truths. Revealing the deeper thoughts that plague my mind, saturating my thoughts and producing actions that I’m too slow to even realize. Cambodia reminded me so much of Haiti. As we cruised the streets in the tuk-tuk as I observed the landscape, the people, the hustle and bustle of daily life. As I took in the smells and observed the scene all around me, my thoughts were Haiti. Somehow the Khmer people reminded me of the Haitian people. Two completely different countries with endless amounts of similarities.
Micah and I were fortunate to find a very nice Airbnb accommodation. It was 30 minutes away from the city, 15 minutes away from the Temples of Angkor and 20 minutes away from the airport. What attracted us to this place was the fact that it was a homestay. Our host was also a tuk-tuk driver. We would have a personal guide from a native of the land. Our host name was Kosal. His sister is an amazing cook with three beautiful little girls. This family are Buddhist and Hindu believers. Our first morning in Cambodia we were awakened by the chants of the monks coming from the pagoda.
What in the world would compel two Christ followers to stay in a Buddhist home? The answer is easy, the people. The exchange of love that can happen between two complete strangers, from different parts of the world. The knowledge and understanding one can gain when they take the time to actually listen. The real authentic stories of how life is like in the world they live and not what the western or eastern cultures tell us about them. Our intentions has proven to be very valuable, meaningful and legendary. Not only did we hear the history, we learned about their faith, we witnessed their territories first hand. Observed their daily struggles and understood. We have more alike than we think.
I’m just speaking out loud in my process of becoming…