If you’re lucky enough to be able to afford food for your human body, then you are lucky enough.
I’ve been suffering an awful disease ever since arriving in Indonesia three months ago. It stops me in my tracks once a day on my travels, bleeds my bank account, and causes me heartache and sleeplessness. I feel there may be no cure.
Compassion has a grip on me. It is an unusual condition. It afflicts you without warning and gives you double vision: your worldview and the other’s.
The children of South Lombok, Indonesia peddle woven bracelets all day, every day, traveling by foot and motorbike from remote villages in the hills to sell these bracelets to feed their families. They cost 5,000 Rupiah (less than .50$USD) and they are incredibly voracious for youngsters. While you are eating, driving, walking along the beach to watch the sunset, you will be followed and approached by 3-5 young children. They forcefully beg you to buy bracelets from them, demand that you buy just one, put them in front of your face while you are eating or talking.
You can only say “no” so many times to a child who has never had a hot shower, or eaten anything other than rice, or slept on a mattress, or seen anything outside of their difficult daily existence. To tourists it is easy to dismiss these “hawkers” as rip offs and annoying, yet my heart breaks when I see the same ones everyday, in the same clothing, with more dirt and more stains and more desperation. I make conversation, offer them food, invite them to sit down and have a water, but it is the business that comes first… selling bracelets is more important than filling their stomachs.
Indonesia is unparalleled in its intensity. The wild surf has the potential to slam you, breaking you in two, the wild terrain is dangerous and diverse, the people are impoverished and in need. The beauty of the rolling hills, dramatic coastline, and headlands are balanced carefully on a fulcrum of a corrupt government selling its population out, providing minimal aid and maximum profit.
There have been debates about the credibility of the children selling their products. Are they truly having a “bad business day”, or is that an automated selling point? Is this a cheap price? Or is this triple what another tourist paid down the street? Will you actually buy books with this money? Or does this go to someone else who does not care for your childhood and education?
I do not know the answers to these questions.
I do not know the solution to these problems.
I am only one person, with a heart breaking wide open.
I cannot buy enough bracelets to feed all the village children, but this fact is not easy to accept.
The only thing I can do is offer kindness, gratitude and hope that this compassion is contagious. In the meantime, I will line my wrists and ankles with bracelets and offer food and water as forcefully as they beg for the sell.
Today I ask you to do one simple thing:
Be thankful you are safe.
Be thankful you are fed.