Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Perspective

Perspective: "The state of one's ideas; the facts known to one." Everyone has one. Most of us usually think ours is right...until it is challenged. Until someone else comes forward and says "why don't you look at it from a different perspective?" I don't usually like that because more often than not when this happens I am already heading down the path of realizing that my perspective is either highly skewed or sometimes totally incorrect. That's what happened this morning.
I went for a run at my usual time, which is around 7:30 am. It was also the usual temp, which is around 84 degrees (heat index nearing 100). Dumb, I know. Anyways, from my perspective, I had a lot to lament during the run. I was listing them off as the kilometers ticked off:

  • "It is sooo hot" (I have a/c and a fan to go home to)
  • "These shoes are hurting my feet" (I have shoes)
  • "The stopwatch on my ipod didn't work correctly" (I have an ipod - actually it's Carolyn's but she is letting me say it's mine for this post).
  • "My eyes get stuff in them as I get blasted by dust, smoke and/or exhaust constantly" (My eyes work)
  • "I'm so thirsty" (I have a tall glass of ice-cold water waiting for me at home).
As I went on and on with my laments, however, I conveniently never included the parenthetical comments. I was only seeing things from my perspective. All of the parentheses would be filled in later when one chance encounter instantly changed my perspective. I never spoke to this person, never met them and am pretty sure they didn't even see me. It all happened within just a few seconds. It was during my last lament (and subsequent parenthetical statement) that opened the flood gate to all of the other ones. On the last stretch of my run (and always the hardest and hottest) I was saying to myself:
  • "My legs are sooo tired" ...then I passed a woman dragging her legs behind her as she scooted along the hot dusty pavement looking for someone, anyone, to give her some money or food. She also had a young girl walking alongside her. I was heartbroken. My perspective didn't only change, it was obliterated...(At least I have legs that work).
One of the streets I run along. Busy, dusty, hot...but it's home.

A boy loading bags of recyclables onto a trailer. The man sitting in the background was waiting for donations from people. 

Monks walk from house to house in the morning. They stand in front of your house. Once you put some money into their bag they will pray for you.

These kids are walking in the exact spot where I saw the woman  scooting along the ground.

Instantly I began thinking of all of the things I had to be thankful for. I am sure that woman would love to run and have her legs get tired. I didn't have anything with me but I knew I wanted to do something for her. So I ran the rest of the way home and told Carolyn about her. She had seen her as well after dropping the van load of kids off at school. She had also been profoundly affected when she saw her. We agreed to pack up some food, a water bottle and some money to bring to her. I quickly loaded it up and took off on the dirt bike to find her. Unfortunately she was no longer on the street...but the impact she made on me will be felt for a long time.
Sadly, this type of scenario is all too common here in Cambodia. In order to survive here there has to be some level of detachment or other coping mechanism in place. However, her presence came at the perfect time to snap me out of my lamenting and help me to view my life from her perspective.

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