Irony of ironies. Last year at school, I sat at the coffee shop and penned a poem, juxtaposing my opulence with the poverty of a man living on the street. Here I am today – in Cambodia. I’m in a convenience store coffee shop – drinking cheaper coffee, but the truth of last year’s poem rings true again.
I feel the same guilt as I sip my frappe – only it’s more intense now, since the poor man is not some abstract creation of my imagination, but is transformed into a dark Cambodian woman – sitting on the curb, hands pressed together before her face, quietly uttering requests for money. A teenage boy paces back and forth in front of the great plexiglass window before me. He gazes into the store like a hungry animal, occasionally touching or resting his body against the window. When people walk by, he reaches out his hand, hoping for something. Someone gave him a bag with a sandwich. He looks at it, as if unsure about its edibility. It isn’t rice. That’s true enough.
I’m confronted with a harsh reality about myself when the woman looks at me through the window. Only feet away – if the glass weren’t here, I could reach out and touch her. Yet, I avert my gaze. Like a slap across my face, I realize I have looked away from Christ in the distressing disguise of the poor.
Why have I disregarded her? The boy? Why did I fear affording him the dignity of looking in his face? Does it make me uncomfortable because I don’t know how to love? Or am I afraid of love’s cost? Or… perhaps the most frightening thought – do I not see them as people?
In giving – do I give to only appease my own conscience?
Or do I give from a deep reservoir of Christ’s love for my fellow man?
Lord – show me how to love. Please teach me.