I have to share this story because it explains why I do what I do.
Michael’s entire wardrobe (post donation)
Michael – one of the poor Cambodian youths who has been studying with me for the past two years – isn’t like the poor in America, he’s truly poor. His parents are squatters, living in a tin hut built over a ditch on the side of a road. Of course, they have no running water, but there is a well nearby. Understanding the degree of poverty here is critical background to this anecdote.
Mike becomes more of a help to me, day-by-day as his English improves. His help is invaluable because I don’t speak the Cambodian language (Khmer). For a couple of days now, we’ve been talking with a 15 year old about coming and joining our program. He only has a 2nd grade education and neither works nor studies. Naturally, his parents are even more illiterate. Today we discovered that the young man has only one pair of pants. Without missing a beat, Michael went and grabbed a pair of his pants and a shirt to give to the other boy.
What makes the story remarkable is Michael only has a very small amount of clothing himself. This is not a rich person with 5 pairs of shorts, 4 pairs of slacks, 3 pairs of shoes, 10-15 shirts, etc… Mike has maybe 2 pairs of pants for school, and (now) one pair of casual pants, two pairs of shorts, 2 school shirts and 3 t-shirts. And of course, the ubiquitous pair of sandals. But he didn’t hesitate to give some away – NOT from his abundance, but his small supply. The picture on the right is Michael holding all of his clothes (sans the pair of pants that he gave away), even including his towel.
For me, these aren’t Christian values, Buddhist values or any other religious values. To me, these are human values. And this is why I’m here.
I’m often asked by both the locals and long-time friends if I don’t miss my life in America. I can’t honestly say that I miss it as much as I can say that I certainly appreciate(d) it. I mean, I would NEVER trade what I have today for that. Not even for that and $10 million dollars.
To be able to provide Michael with an education that will allow him to lift his entire family out of poverty AND to be able to nurture him so that he becomes a man worthy of the classification “Human”, is, to me, priceless.
[Michael gave me permission to tell the story. This post, including the picture of him holding his entire wardrobe was my idea, not his.]