Thursday, January 20, 2011

Being the Hero - Or Not

Cambodia Blog 11
January 20th 2011
Being the Hero - Or Not

What would you do?

The gap between what *would* I do, in my head, and what I *did* do, in reality, is an uncomfortably large one. Cambodia forces me to stare into this void far more often than I do in America, where we have a functional social safety net to keep us from looking our responsibility to one another in the face. So the question I pose in this blog is this: what do you do when you see someone who needs help, and have absolutely no idea how to help them? My dear reader, I do hope you will reply.

Today on my way home from dinner I passed one of the strangest and saddest things I have ever seen. Coming out of a nightclub/hotel parking lot was a large expensive car, the kind so popular with the pretentious rich here with ‘LEXUS’ scrawled across the sides. But the car was stopped halfway into the road. A woman blocked it’s exit, completely naked, the resigned desperation on her face lit by headlights of the thick cloud of traffic crawling by the scene.

She needed help. I don’t know why she was there, the only reasons I can guess at are horrific. But the reality was: she was naked in the middle of the street and no one was helping her. I had no idea what to do. When I got home I shoved a dress, a bathrobe and my leftover pizza in my bag and went running back. But, of course, she was gone. My chase to help had come and gone in the few shocked seconds after seeing her and realizing she needed help.

So what to do? In those seconds, do you get off the moto or out of the car or out of your way and try to help, even if you don’t know what to do? Do you collect your thoughts and come back too late? I know there is little I can do, with my resources and my experience, but I refuse to accept inaction. And yet still, I don’t know what to do.

What would you do? What should a decent, caring  person do when faced with immediate need? Thank you for your thoughts.


  1. Anna, you wrote this in your blog of November 25th:
    "Today at lunch two children younger than my sister materialized from the street and watched us hungrily. I never give money to children because it usually ends up in the hands of some thug making them beg, but I gave them what was left of my lunch. They delightedly poured it into a dirty plastic bag, and scampered off, before returning for any other scraps we had leftover. I look into their eyes and I know how easily that could be me. By some insane, unfair stroke of luck I was born here. In the richest country in the world, to a family that loves me beyond all reason, and has made sure I have never seen hunger or fear. I could have been born to the struggling, the broken, the destitute, and lived begging scraps like a stray dog, like these children. The world is incredibly unjust, and for some reason I have benefited from this. All I can do I fight for greater justice in our broken world, and be grateful every day I am granted the strength to do so."

    I think these words show you have begun to answer your own question about what you can do individually to fix "our broken world." Your experiences today will help learn what you might do tomorrow when you face yet another difficult situation. Talk with people around you about this.

  2. Hi Anna,

    I think you're finding out a primary reason that only a few people would dare do what you so valiantly are doing. It is this frustration of seeing the amount of suffering and desperation around us, and being helpless to do much for it, that keeps many other people (myself included) from doing anything remotely similar. Please remember that your very existence there is certainly contributing a lot to those children and others that you contact. My advice (from nowhere in particular) is to keep working with the children and offer simple kindness to others you contact. Please take care of yourself and don't place yourself in harm's way. Since I doubt that you fully understand the customs and practices of your surroundings, it might be possible to misunderstand a situation and pay grave consequences. You're doing a spectacular job and have nothing to feel ashamed of. You cannot help everyone who needs help. Your quote in Larry's comment says it all.

    Michael Mewborn