AFTER BEING swamped by a group of beggars (some of them children and many missing a limb) on a beach in Cambodia, a friend of mine realised his wallet had been stolen.
With nowhere to report the crime, he decided to live on the US$20 he had in his pocket for the following two weeks.
After all, these beggars – the victims of poverty and landmines – had far less than my friend had, even after they had his wallet.
So he spent two weeks in a country that is in the process of grabbing for the tourist dollar.
It was a place where selling the history of war has become a necessity to survive, a country full of beautiful, determined, and tough people who have had entire generations wiped out.
But on his return to Bangkok, my friend realised he did not have enough money for the Thai departure tax.
It was Sunday. The Australian Embassy was closed. He had no way of getting money.
Resembling a typical, unshaven backpacker, he began approaching people who looked like they might be Australians to assist him.
He had to raise the equivalent of around AUD$30.
He asked a well-to-do looking couple. The reply was scathing.
“Just ignore it,” the gentleman said to his wife.
Most people just said a polite “No”.
After six hours of pleading with Thai airport officials and begging fellow travellers for the money, it was another broke backpacker who gave him the $30 to get home.
I always think this story sounds like a Biblical lesson. It is so often those who cannot afford to give who give so much.
I’d like to think I would have given a stranger the money, but I’m not sure I would have.
Of course, charity is not just money – it is a gift from the heart.
The children on the beach in Cambodia needed a gift from the heart much more than my friend did. But how do we decide who receives charity, and how do we best provide it?
My friend didn’t give them money because he had been advised the best way to help was to donate to established charities.
How does Jesus call us to enact charity in its original meaning (love)?
I hope this edition of Journey provides some answers to these questions.
PS. A year later, while going through his travel documents, my friend found the $30 he had put aside for the departure tax in Bangkok. He had hidden it so he wouldn’t spend it accidentally.
Perhaps someone was teaching him a valuable lesson.