By Scott Obley, PLF Advocate
Friday, July 19 was the day I was in search of. A conundrum for my psyche. A virtual knockout blow to my generally self-absorbed world view, which I am well aware of, but very rarely confronted with. Today was a day of realizing that no good deed goes unpunished, because no good deed is ever large enough to fill the void that exists between the amount of compassion and humanity that is present on this planet, and the amount that is needed. So in the giving, we are painfully confronted with the reality that we have not given enough.
Today was the day I was in search of because we truly did want to “give back” as a part of our travels. We also wanted to, selfishly, provide an opportunity for Miles to measure his own life versus others and to leave here with a sharpened perspective, perhaps a more well-defined world view. A selfish intention in a world that often lacks in selflessness. For me, I really just wanted to step outside of my usual pre-programmed existence that revolves around trying to fill 544 guest rooms in a hotel, and do so at a sufficiently high rate to please those that need pleasing, and which will allow me to continue living the life we have become accustomed to over the past several years. Silly me. Fools gold.
Today was the day we visited a rural schoolhouse with a student body of 320 undernourished children to deliver a meager 50 backpacks to some of the kids who were still in need of one. Kids who will put on their dusty uniforms and ride a dusty road on a rusty bicycle that is so large for them that they can’t sit upon the seat, assuming they are lucky enough to have a bike. These are kids, often times, are only allowed by their parents to attend school because they can get a meal and a drink of fresh water there. These are the same kids who work the rice fields and who stand outside the tourist destinations to hawk postcards, bracelets, books, flutes and whatever else they can possibly find to sell in order to sustain themselves and their families.
Today was the day where, in the soggy heat of the Cambodian countryside my sense of humanity was plunged into some icy arctic waters that run between the reality of what is and what ought to be, while my heart was simultaneously being melted by our far too brief encounter with these schoolchildren. And I am compelled to admit that I feel a very real sense of disproportionate privilege that somehow I have been afforded the opportunity to travel and have had enough schooling to be able to document that which we see, eat, observe and experience along the way.
We arranged our donation of backpacks to the Khnar School through the Ponheary Ly Foundation. Gwen coordinated the visit with a young man named Travis, originally from Oklahoma, who is now the Executive Director of this Foundation. Travis was gracious and informative, and yet another human being that makes me feel like less of one in witnessing his devotion to the greater good. Many people can write a check or deliver backpacks, while far too few actually do the work that needs to be done. Somewhat coincidentally, we stumbled across some strong ties between Maui and the Ponheary Ly Foundation. I told Travis that I will post some photos and videos via social media to provide a pebble of awareness where a mountain is needed, and will think about possible corporate responsibility opportunities the foundation might be able to explore via the hospitality industry.