Cambodia has its fair share of challenges. On any given day things could be amazing, or awful. There isn’t always one reason why things go wrong. It could be the heat, or something cultural, or second hand emotional trauma. It could be something serious, like the people i’m fighting for ended up not getting justice this time, or something silly… like that I just realized I don’t have enough money in the month to splurge on a box of cereal (sort of kidding, but really…it is a splurge here- usually almost $6/box). I know my emotions can be fickle, and I don’t pretend to understand them every single time I feel down, overly exhausted, or just in a rut. There could be so many things that lead to those moments, but I wouldn’t trade those moments for anything. And since facing these struggles, I’ve gotten a lot better at getting out of ruts.
Being here has taught me that nothing is as bad as it seems. I don’t mean this in the way it is sometimes said, “be thankful for what you have, because you could ________ (insert something usually related to poverty here).” If that helps you to remember to be thankful for what you have, then by all means find what works for you. I have found people who are very wealthy to be quite poor, and people with no money to be very rich in what life has to offer. Life is so much more than the items we possess, or the places we live in. I say this to mean that you don’t always have to look at what you might see as less (or what some people see as just enough) to appreciate what you have. When you look at the bigger picture of life, all of the unnecessary things fade away.
Unnecessary things have a funny way of consuming our lives. They take too much of our energy, and have carried away a thought too many. I could write a long list of what I find unnecessary, but that would be subjective, so I will just leave a short list about things not worth caring a lot about. If they get your drink order wrong, if you chip off your newly painted nails. If your neighbor got a nicer car than you, if this person that you aren’t close with told that person that you don’t even really know that you are something. If you put too much stock in anything like that, you might find your energy dwindling away on things that in the big scope of things don’t really matter. Everyone has their own list of things they know are the “unnecessaries”. Some of the examples I gave might make people chuckle, but I know many people (including me) who have gotten bent out of shape from the examples above.
Beyond not putting much stock in the unnecessaries, I have also found you can’t judge a book by its cover. An age old phrase i’ve heard time and time again, but now I actively try to live it out. You never know what journey everyone has been on. More often than not their actions are a reaction to something in their past, or a way they have been treated. When I find myself frustrated with someone, I often see that their actions that are causing frustration to me are effects of a cause that happened long ago. Realizing this reminds me to approach issues with grace. If I have a problem, I approach it head on, and remember that there are two sides to everything. Gossiping is useless, and grace is essential.
My time here has been invaluable for so many reasons, but I am especially thankful for how I am not the same person I was when I first stepped foot on this soil. The beauty of life is that there are so many variables, and many of those variables are within us. We react and respond to life around us, and it shapes us into different people. Cambodia has molded and re-shaped me time and time again. It has shown me what really matters, through the times where I have seen true darkness, and the times I have seen true light. I have seen brokenness and hopefulness in its purest forms. Through all of that, I have experienced that any struggle I face shall pass. Any obstacle that presents itself in my path, I shall overcome. When life seems hopeless, I will keep fighting, fighting for those who can’t always fight themselves. My energy won’t be spent on the unnecessaries, but on the only necessary thing I see in my path: love. Love for each other, and all the things that come along with love.
I hope that as the world continues to shape you, you will let is shape you into something full of love. Because from love comes compassion. From love comes care. And from love comes hope. Even on the darkest days, all one needs is hope. Focus on the necessary, the rest will follow.
On a completely unrelated note…I took a segway for a spin for the first time at my neighbors the other day. I wouldn’t say I am ‘Paul Blart mall cop’ level, but I probably could now talk, and balance at the same time. Little victories people.
Hugs for days,