Confessions of an Entitled American

Two weeks ago I again had the opportunity to travel around the globe to spend time with Youth-Reach graduate Brett Medlin in his adopted country of Cambodia. Though this was my sixth time there, this was by far the most emotionally taxing. Even as I write this I am still dealing with a respiratory infection that I brought back as a souvenir of my time in one of the unhealthiest environments you could imagine.

Brett Medlin (L) at the bedside of Tuol, a critically injured member of the Rock Foundation drilling team, at Calmett Hospital in Phnom Penh. Tuol later died from complications of his injury.

For years Brett has led a native team of men into the desperately poor provinces to drill water wells, that for the people there, will mean greater health and longer life expectancy. As a terrible testimony of the conditions and the spiritual warfare in this dark nation, four members of this drilling team have died in the last two years. By accidents, disease and unexplained occurrences, these men are no longer living and earning a wage for their families. For Brett, he has battled discouragement, financial hardships, government corruption and the loss of critical team members and friends. During my recent time there, Brett and I ventured into the unimaginable chaos of Calmett Hospital to visit a critically injured member of his drilling team. To witness the conditions, the lack of hope, the overwhelmed staff, and the inhumanity that sickness and injury can mean in a place like this was almost more than I could take in….and Calmett is considered Cambodia’s flagship medical facility.

For an entitled American like myself, it was like a slap to the face to look on the sick who, without financial resources, will not receive care. Without the ability to communicate in their native tongue, I could only walk through their version of an ICU praying and crying. Meeting the wife of our injured driller was to witness the heights of hope spent on a losing cause. She was using up every meager resource to buy another day of life support for her husband, who without the best care and long-term rehabilitation, would never survive, much less again be the strong provider he once was.

From there we visited a terribly austere village of a sort on the edge of a mammoth garbage dump, where the people labor seven days-a-week to pick plastic and aluminum recyclables out of the mountains of trash in an effort to gain a pittance to live on.

We visited a rare Christian church in Svay Reign that is miles from the end of the electrical poles. The people lined up and waited patiently for two-kilo bags of rice and the children were excited to receive a single slice of bread. No butter, no jelly – just a slice of fresh bread, and they were incredibly thankful. I could only hand them what we had brought and steep in my shame and self-disgust. Afterwards we sat in an impoverished home surrounded by muddy green rice fields where we had been invited to share lunch with a few older ladies from the church. They served us rice and chicken soup and then humbly waited for us to voice a request for anything more. I gratefully ate, knowing that they were providing for this spoiled American from the meager stores they had gathered. Each bite tasted like guilt.

Two days later I was walking the concourse of the Taipei International Airport, lamenting my 5-hour layover, when it hit me. In such a short period of time, what I had witnessed in Cambodia was being washed away by my putrid entitlement. I was surrounded by restaurants offering many choices of cuisine in air-conditioned comfort waiting on a terribly expensive jet to whisk me around the globe where I would return to my life of ease. I have so much more than I deserve. Even though I make less money than most of you reading this, I am obscenely wealthy. I eat more than I need, I expect convenience in every area of my life, and I live among a people who cannot have enough toys.

Yet, I want to be different. I want to be humble and grateful. I want to deeply affirm that I was born into this country by no effort of my own. And I want to pass this on to my children and the boys of Youth-Reach. My heart is to share more lavishly, give more generously, and recognize that I am not entitled to 5% of what I receive. In this short column, I hope that maybe you too can grasp how blessed and how privileged you are to live where you live and have all that you possess. Our health care system is extraordinary, our law enforcement community is incredible, our access to healthy food is an immeasurable benefit, and yet we complain and point fingers of blame. The only blame I see is on me; I am entitled and see luxuries as what I deserve and should rightfully have.

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. Please forgive me.

By: Curt Williams, Founder & Executive Director