She is Cambodian. Probably 5 or 6. And incredibly sweet and mischievous. He is also from Cambodia… around the same age. They look like brother and sister. I heard they are, but I have no real way of knowing. Khmer and Thai are such different languages. She’s a quick one. She stole my Nalgene when I set it down to take their picture. But I guess I did let her. I couldn’t take it from her… not with the smile she wore. That was in September 2008.
A couple of weeks ago, as I was heading home late at night with a friend I saw her alone on the songtaew. Her brother, if he is her brother, wasn’t there. No parents. She can’t be much older than 7 or 8 now. I immediately recognized her. I don’t know if she remembered me or or not… but the entire songthaew ride home, we made silly faces at each other. And she copied everything I did. I never caught her name.
Later that week, I saw her in the downtown area begging. She remembered me this time for sure and her face lit up. I stopped for a few moments to say hello before heading on.
Then one day, as I was sitting in our office I saw her walk by with an older woman. Ying, one of my Thai teammates, immediately knew she was Cambodian, that she lived in the slum outside the city and that she came every day into town to beg in the area that I saw her in earlier that week.
My heart ached to do something for her. Though I’m saddened that she has no true childhood, I’m glad that she’s working as a beggar and not selling herself. I wonder what has happened to her brother though. I have not seen him yet.
There’s a child shrieking with laughter down the hall from my room as I write this. I wish that my little friend could share in this laughter for more than one songthaew ride. But I have to leave her and her brother in His hands, and trust that little ones to Him belong. Though they are weak and vulnerable, He is strong on their behalf.