On a wet humid evening we sat outside on the bustling street corner, in the heart of the action, waiting to enjoy our meal. The restaurant we chose, our clothes and the colour of our skin screamed to the locals that we were wealthy foreigners to Phnom Penh, and almost immediately we were confronted with invitations to purchase or give. Girls the age of my daughters selling bags, young men selling books and a Mother with a young child simply begging. At first we engaged with them, then quickly learnt it was easier to ignore them and their need.

Later as we meandered along the streets we saw a young child (12 – 18 months) standing on the footpath. I glanced down to see her mother bent over a rubbish bag scavenging for food. As I walked past I realised it was the women who had begged from us at dinner. The woman and child I had ignored. I returned and gave her some money, she thanked me, and went back to scavenging in the rubbish.

I learnt some lessons that evening, learnings that have implications beyond the poverty encountered in Cambodia.

We must be prepared to give:
When I hit Cambodia I hadn’t formed this thinking, which meant each situation I encountered required me to make yes/no decisions. Soon the answer just becomes NO.

You can’t fix everything you see, so being prepared means having the forethought to know what you believe in giving to, and how much. And to whom.

This applies equally back home. Knowing what we will give to, helps when people knock on the door or telemarketers call. Importantly knowing what you believe in giving to, means you will give. If you’re not prepared the answer quickly becomes NO.

We must be ready to give:
If being prepared is a state of mind, then being ready is practical. For us it meant having small amounts of money available for donations. Whether running in the morning or on a Tuk Tuk, we had money to give without hesitation to make a small difference.

At home, I barely ever carry money, and therefore it is significantly harder for me to give without hesitation to make a small immediate difference.

I know a lot of people like me have a heart to give, to be compassionate and yet miss opportunities. So may you prepare your hearts to know when and how you will give. And then may you be ready to give without hesitation.

May you encounter the joy of making a difference.

Lesson 1 from Cambodia visit 2012: Being prepared to give.