This is the sixth of a seven part series entitled 36 Hours in Cambodia. This is an unedited account of a personal journey and will be followed by stories from a few more of my international volunteer trips. Many of the experiences on these trips would become the impetus for founding UniversalGiving™.
June 16, 2002
That night, in my hotel room. Too many people, young old, toothless, scabbed, scarred have some body part missing and stubbed. It is unnatural, unbelievable. It is not to be believed. It is not acceptable. And it throws me back to the day when I felt trapped at Angkor Wat airport, and my freedom rested on a piece of paper that I could obtain. My thoughts trapeze back and forth between freedom, atrocity, papers…
THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE TO ME. Inside my throat aches with unfallen tears as I laid back on my bed after the day. I simply cannot believe that this has happened to so many people; that they are affected by such displays of vulnerable, non-lasting displays of human power…We see it time again. I saw it in El Salvador, Guatemala, Hitler, Serbia, again, again again.
It is not acceptable to me. These statements throbbed back and forth in my head, pounding with various strengths and tempos…
It is not acceptable
It IS NOT ACCEPTABLE
I had a piece of paper
Lives lost, destroyed, taken, trapped
Paper, allowed me, to leave
I had a piece of paper…
It is not acceptable to me
This definition of life, termination, devastation of both gone and living
I had a piece of paper.
So I must look higher. To survive, I must look forward and higher.
First, forward. In so many countries we are seeing the efforts for democracy, at least purported. The effort of people expressing themselves freely, individually, uniquely is taking place slow foothold by foothold…This is not to say that democracy is perfect; neither that America\’s manifestation of democracy is perfect. It can always be improved. It is more the concept which allows people to express their talents, thoughts and voice, and to have their polities represent, in actuality, their peoples.
Second, move higher… I have to look higher to understand the qualities we cannot touch – that no one touches. It is the qualities which we can intellectually, spiritually and emotionally perceive – which are lasting and untouched by any human situation. Here, we have to look in some ways beyond just what this earth and time presents to us….How can the love of an individual be squashed? It cannot be confined to a cell, closed up in a box, killed. How can the spirit of an individual, the grace, uniqueness, love, goodness, be taken? It may appear for a time to be gone. But it simply cannot be materially, physically held prisoner.
I am not saying this is easy or always readily apparent. We begin to move beyond life based solely on the physical realm, understanding that an individual\’s love and spirit exists – perhaps not in bodily form, but certainly in quality, in thought, in feeling, in memory. These forms cannot be taken.
Viewing life only from this perspective does not escape or excuse the horror. It is not acceptable to me that life can consist of only terror and horror for so many beautiful people. It is not acceptable to me that this terror will prevail.
And we see that it doesn\’t…. Time and time again tyranny and error and false power, trying to limit the human spirit and freedom, are in and of themselves eventually squashed, often by their own methods, means, and creators. Their own error and untruth and falsity kills itself. Or, the unique spirit in each one of us, eventually finds a way to overcome, and express its joy and freedom anew.
Obviously and apparently I continue to work on this view of life in my day to day — it is a process, journey and one of growth. This view can be applied not only in the most grotesque forms of error and evil, but in the minutest ones we face in our day to day. Our lives can be an effort for peace simply by our day to day actions that we take in addressing negativity of any sort. We do not need to go to another country. We do not need to leave where we are. Peace happens in every single interaction every day. You have a choice to give more peace to the world or less, every single moment. Do not think that it is any less important than going and doing relief work in a refugee camp. Every single person\’s contribution, every moment, does indeed make up the beauty and lasting peace of our world. If people see it in our eyes, our relationships, our communities, our countries — they will want it in their relationships, their communities and their countries.
You can take action.
Give $20 to provide gardening tools to a Cambodian family.
Give $25 to clear landmines.
Give $100 to support economic development in Cambodia.
Volunteer with an arts center in Cambodia.