As I sit in Sri Lanka admiring the many symphonies that mother nature has allowed to be created, I strive to understand the experiences that I have endured up to this point. I am striving to make sense out of the insensible. Attempting to understand how one man’s regime can be responsible for the world’s worst atrocities while at the same time striving to understand how the value of life in Sri Lanka is so minimal that people are simply abandoned, written-off because of minor defects.
While standing in front of a glass cage filled with 8,000 skulls of victims whose only crime was to be educated, wealthy, religious, I find myself asking why we as a species would turn a blind eye to the atrocities committed by Pol Pot’s vicious regime. We always hear about the vile nature of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime; however, we rarely, if ever, mention the genocide in Cambodia. Is this because America was not impacted by this regime? Unfortunately, I would argue that yes this is the case. I am not trying to minimize what occurred during WWII in any way, rather attempting to bring attention to a crime that saw almost 1/4 of the Cambodian population killed.
This genocide will forever haunt me in a way that is hard to put into words. The sickening feeling in my soul that I felt while seeing bones emerge from the earth while on the walkways of the” Killing Fields.” Those bones belonged to people who died because they had original thoughts, college degrees and/or had found religion. People similar to myself in many, many ways.
The Killing Fields represent the horror that a single man can cause; the impact that true evil can have on this world. How is this possible? How does one man have the power to order the executions of millions? How does one man posses so much hatred for his fellow human beings? I have no idea as to the answers to these questions, but what I do know is that we, as a people, need to strive to ensure these atrocities never occur again. Unfortunately, we have the opportunity right now to act. We have the ability to save precious lives in Darfur; however, we seem to be content with holding a conversation about how bad Obama’s performance has been, how lagging the economy is and many other topics that at the end of the day produce little results. What is my point to all of this? My point is that we are all in a very fortunate position in that we have the ways and means to help those less fortunate and prevent truly horrible events from happening in the future. We have enough incentives to make us want to do the right things in this world. Yet we ignore these problems and focus all of our energy on problems of little consequence.
The feelings and emotions that I have felt during my time in Cambodia and Sri Lanka dice thru me like a knife thru butter. Reminding me of exactly how fortunate I am to have good health, the love of the most amazing woman, as well as how lucky I am to have been born in the US. Very easily could it have been I, that was living and growing up in the Stung Meanchey garbage community or been discarded in Sri Lanka because I was made with a defect. I search for a validation to my existence. I am an analyst by trade and thus strive to understand why something does or does not occur. What is so special about me in the Lord’s eyes? This trip has afforded me the opportunity to find God; the opportunity to change the childish ways of my past and strive for a better future. This trip has shown me how to live and love while on planet earth.
As I sit on top of a massive rock formation in Unawanatuna, Sri Lanka listening to the chants of Muslim prayers intertwined with the beats of banging house music, I am vividly reminded of the struggles I had before this trip. I struggled mightily to find a way in which I can help those less fortunate that I would encounter on this trip. I wondered how an overweight, five foot nothing white kid from Dallas could impact the lives of people that have seen such horror and been treated worse than anything I had ever witnessed. I struggled to think of something I could build, fix, improve, clean or move that would impact their lives. As I sit here, I realize that none of the above would have the impact I desired. I now realize that I am impacting these folk’s lives just by sitting with them, sharing a smile, laughing and even crying. These folks crave real human interaction. They long for someone to make them feel human, make them feel whole again. With every fiber of their being, they just want to feel like a human and not some caged animal.
This is a sobering reality for me in that I am historically an introvert. Never have I enjoyed letting my guard down long enough for someone to enter my life and have any real impact on me. For too long I lived this way and now I can say that I was wrong. I wonder how many life changing relationships I overlooked because of my own selfishness. How many memories have been denied because of my stupidity? I am almost ashamed at the way I have lived my 31 years on this earth – thinking that I know all and am always right. It strikes me at the core to realize that it took me coming to the other side of the globe to realize and understand how bad of a person I have been and how disrespectful I have been to God and those that care so much about me. This journey truly has been humbling and difficult and at times I was ready to simply throw in the towel and quit. Words simply do not do justice as to how thankful I am to have been chosen for this journey. Many, many heartfelt thanks to Eric and Sherry and Hope For the Silent Voices for providing a framework for me to rediscover myself and allow me to change this world we all call home.
For me, I am beginning to understand that the way in which I help these folks upon my return home is on many fronts. I would be disrespecting the many unfortunate people I have met and bonded with during this journey if I don’t take advantage of the lessons learned from here and institute massive change in my life. Strive to take advantage of the many benefits of being an American. Gone are the days of living a fruitless life filled with drugs and alcohol, laziness and being copasetic with having nothing of real value. Gone are the days of debating the merits to which God exists as I have had the privilege of seeing and feeling His work during this journey. While this trip is coming to a close, I now firmly believe that my journey in life has just begun and that I have been given a second chance at life. This is a second chance to prove to the world who I am as a man, as a father, as a lover, and as a friend. I can commit to the world that I value this second chance and will live everyday with a solid heart and a clear mind.
Keep smiling world because if we don’t, greatness can never be achieved.