When I think of my girls here in Cambodia I know I would do just about anything for them. When I think of someone hurting them, I feel it in my own body. When I think of them suffering my first response is kayak.com to book a flight. So how far should one go for the ones they love?
As this year comes to a close I think of the immense psychological, mental and emotional suffering to which my beautiful girls who have already suffered so much were subjected at the hands of merciless individuals whose own agenda far out-weighed their humanity or capacity for empathy.
I think of the tears I shed in the arms of loved ones as hysteria racked my body because of the overwhelming feelings of helplessness and despair I experienced. I think of these moments and I ask myself, "What is the lesson I'm/we're to learn here?"
On this last day of a very tumultuous year for my survivors (who never stop surviving by the way) I realize I've learned much. My girls are still okay, still pulling through. We are not sure what tomorrow holds, but they know Bong Srey (big sister) Anna and Bong Somaly Mam are going to find a way. Our girls will have the scholarships, which were so unashamedly ripped from them, taking with them the hopes and dreams of young women who had already once lost all hope while suffering in brothels and then been given hope by those who would inevitably turn on them to save themselves. Our young girls will continue to have rice on the table and access to the psychological care they need. They will remain in school and we will find a way to keep protecting them from those who would seek to prey on their innocence.
As we take care of our own at this point our hearts ache to be able to return to the field so we may continue rescuing their sisters (and brothers) still in brutal suffering within the brothels at the hands of pimps and traffickers and Johns.
But, I digress. The lesson. The lesson. This year's most valuable lesson came with much pain as the lesson was pain itself. Why do we experience pain? Why? For me the question was why do those I love deeply experience pain and why must I watch helplessly as the doors to one of our northern Cambodia centers be closed? For as much as I could do, I could not do enough on my own (a big thanks to everyone who continued support through the year).
I needed to learn the very important lesson of "allowing". Now this is a lesson that any NGO supporter or aid worker would probably question with confusion. To allow suffering would put them out of a passion or at the least out of a job after all. So allow (see how I did that😏) me to explain. In learning to allow another person their pain, their suffering, I do not mean we do not fight the good fight on the contrary, we must strive harder to stand against evil and also be there when the suffering ends. But there are moments in life (not unlike when we are small and must learn about 'growing pains') in which we are subjected to suffering so growth has an opportunity to happen.
It's safe to say this lesson was a long time coming for me. At the expense of my own health and many other people's continued growth I have been extremely guilty of rushing in to rescue, playing the savior role often times for those who cared not to be rescued. Yes, I've done a lot of good, but with this year's lesson taken in and truly meditated upon I am able to see with hindsight just how important it was for me to come to this insight. I'm that person who would scale your walls, pry into your world and force my rescuing abilities onto you and you had better like it. Lol. But I would fail more often than not. It was not my life to live, my lesson(s) to learn, my suffering to grow from.
Suffering is such an interesting aspect of our world. It is everywhere we go. We see it's shades, colors and hues in every detail of our lives. We think of beautiful moments only to have our mind, remind us not long after just how that memory was marred by something negative.
So what if... Suffering isn't negative at all. What if it is, in fact, the baseline purpose of human life on earth. Not suffering for the sake of suffering. No. Suffering because it leads to growth.
Most of us would agree that when we experience pain we learn things. So awareness comes to the forefront when pain is nearby? If this is the case, then can suffering not lead to renewal and ultimately survival?
So this year amidst loss, despair and failings I was to learn the greatest gift I can give myself is to stand in the depths of defeat, trudge through tears in the face of loss and learn as much as one can from suffering. If every moment acceptance is invited in, then every moment can be beautiful because every moment is truly lived. The greatest gift I can give myself, then, is to truly live.
So how far would you go? Are you capable of loving someone so much that you choose to let go of your need to rescue them (a need for control)? Are you capable of loving someone enough to allow them to experience their suffering, to feel their pain?
I know I'm not fully there yet, but I'm working on it. I've started where all successful journeys must begin. I've started with me.
In 2015 may I challenge you to in the face of pain and anguish and suffering ask yourself this, "What am I to learn?"