by Bob Vandersluis
As many of you know, my wife and I were recently overseas visiting Thailand and Cambodia. We went to Thailand for one of my friend’s wedding, then ventured into Cambodia after just because.
I want to share with you a couple of pretty neat images, and relay the impression and feelings that came along with both of these.
Given this week’s event’s in Charlottesville, VA, I wanted to reflect on how sports can have an impact on race, culture and relationships.
This is a school we visited just outside of Siem Reap, Cambodia, spontaneously as we were driving in our “Tuk Tuk” to a river boar ride (which is a story for another day). I asked the driver to stop when we passed the school, because I was genuinely interested in what a school in Cambodia looked like. It was around 2:00pm on a Friday, so the vibe was a bit relaxed. Keep in mind, this is the middle of July in Cambodia, and the temperature was over 38 degrees C. When we arrived, the children in the classroom, and the teacher were all very welcoming. They invited is in to take a closer look, as our driver explained to them that I was a teacher from Canada. Their general intrigue was very humbling. Immediately they started asking questions and proposing greetings. I answered a few students inquiries, and then it was time for recess. The older classrooms poured out of the other separate buildings, and the next video shows a glimpse of what happened next.
This video is probably the most impactful part of my experience in Southeast Asia. I have spent a lot of time with youth and teen athletes over the last 15 years, and this was one of the purest moments I’ve had.
This is my takeaway….
All kids deserve a chance to play and have fun. Everyone needs an opportunity. Even if that means sharing one ball among 14 players, and including everyone equally. These kids wanted me to play with them the minute I stepped on their field, and they made every effort to make me feel like part of their team. It was truly remarkable the way they made me feel, as an outsider, and visible minority. There was no hostility, or resentment, or hesitation in making a perfect pass to me. I felt included, and respected as soon as I stepped onto the field. I was at home, in a country across the world.
I feel different about inclusion and culture after taking this adventure. It isn’t that I was a racist or elitist before, but my mind has been expanded and I feel like I have a better perspective to see people for who they are, and not what they look like on the surface. My mind is washed of many pre-judegements based on skin colour, religious beliefs, or hair style. I have a sense now, that I understand character, moral standing, and genuine emotion just a little bit better.
I don’t often quote the Bible, in fact this may be the first time ever, but I thought this notion is particularly relevant for this incident and for many like it. (I’m not sure if “incident” is the right word. I mean what is racism and bigotry? It’s certainly not an “incident”, but more of a mindset, a problem, an epidemic)
“I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10