“Its expensive, sometimes I can only eat twice in a day” I felt how wrong my words were before they had even finished leaving my mouth but like a train trying to stop before the broken bridge ahead they still tumbled out of my mouth. I felt like such a pretentious asshole, eating only twice in a day was seen as leaving meagerly back home. I don’t even see that as hard, but for me to say that to a man that had just told me he had 13 dollars left each month after supporting his parents and five family members that live with him seemed cruel.
The conversation started after I booked a tour to see Angkor Wat, before I knew I was learning the kind of details I am very curious to know but don’t usually feel like I can ask about. He told me his nickname is “Mr. Badboy”, he works from 7am-9:30pm every day. When he said everyday he means he works every day, there is no weekend, no time off. His fathers motorbike is broken and he hasn’t had enough time for a month to fix it. He supports his family with a ferocious work ethic.
“How do you eat when you run out of money?” I asked. “I drink a lot of water.” he answered with a laugh. He then went on to explain to me how sorry he feels for people who can’t work. He see’s the beggars without arms or legs from the mines here in Cambodia and he gives them what help he can, he values his own ability to provide for himself and his family. He doesn’t feel sorry for himself, for him he is lucky to be capable of caring for his parents and the rest of his family. At 25 Mr. Badboy has a huge sense of responsibility, his family depends on him, he uses more strength for his family than most people I know use on everything in their life.
He might have 13 dollars a month for his own food but he is willing to give some of that away to those less fortunate than he is. 13 dollars, I’ve spent close to 13 dollars a day on food for more than two months. A meal at a restaurant here would cost about a dollar for something simple.
“You know about the refugees? in Europe.” “I see them and I cry, its so sad they have to leave their home” He told me all this after explaining to me the hardships of his own life. He went on to tell me how his girlfriend is from Japan and she doesn’t visit very often, they only talk over the internet and he has so little time because of work. He told me how they might only see each other once a year. Every morning they send each other a message to start their day with, sometimes she can call during the day and they might get to chat at night for half an hour. He said its hard and he misses her but he’s happy that he can talk so much with her. I was amazed by each story he told, he piled high his hardships so that I couldn’t even see mine anymore. He went further and tried to bury his own in the stories of other peoples struggles that exceeded his own. I know it is not good to compare struggles when it disregards the experience of the individual but the comparisons are so useful to help me appreciate my life and feel more compassion for the other people of this world. There are billions of struggles on earth, probably more and it is amazing to me that some people can have such compassion for others when their only food that day was a few liters of water.
So when I said to this force of nature that I sometimes can’t eat more than twice a day I showed to myself that nothing I could say could compare my struggles to his. That is okay, its good even but it is a powerful lesson. Some problems are not problems, some struggles are not struggles but when your life is easy the hardest easy things in your life are called “struggles”.
I won’t say my life isn’t hard, it is hard sometimes but even I ever start to feel sorry for myself feel free to remind me of Mr. Badboy.