Today I went to wash my car. A fairly mundane act. When I arrived there was one car with military license plates being washed and I was second in line, but another car quickly cut in front of me to go into the washing bay first. My first response was to get upset and maybe have a few words with the impatient and rude driver. I felt the Holy Spirit calm me down. I chose to be silent and not let it bother me, because after all, I was not in a hurry. It was “rest day” for me.
Upon parking the car, now third in line, I went to sit down next to the guys who just cut me off. I scanned the room, in my mind, instantly making an assessment of each person in the waiting room. Soldier: I assumed must be powerful; driver: a jerk; passenger: things he’s someone special, but I am sure he is not. There were two guys in the car who cut me off and another military officer. They chatted among themselves and I wanted only to keep to myself. However, wherever I go it seems people like to talk to me in Cambodia. Soon, the inevitable question came from the ‘jerk’ driver, “How many kilos do you weigh?” I politely, but strongly replied that it was none of his business, but then I smiled and yielding to his curiosity, saying I was 180kg. Quickly the group of those waiting forgot about my size and were very curious as to why I spoke Khmer fluently.
The military officer kept butting into the conversation and trying to show off that he had power and influence. After all, he was in a Army uniform. Often, in Cambodia, people in authority insist that you honor them and listen to them, regardless of what rubbish they have to say. I just let him talk away. He was really impressing himself.
Then one of the quiet guys, the passenger in the car that cut me off, came and set next to me. He was curious as to what I did. I told him I worked in Banteay Meanchey with children. He replied that he worked in Banteay Meanchey too. Soon we were exchanging names and I found out he was a senior government official working under my friend the governor. Then the Deputy Prime Minister called him and he mentioned me in the phone call. The Deputy PM confirmed that he also knew me. All of a sudden the military officer went quiet. The Deputy PM is a four star general and former Chief of the Cambodian Army.
Attitudes and impressions changed quickly. The perception of who I assumed people were was shattered, as their perception of me was likely changed too. Suddenly, the fat foreigner is a really great guy for helping poor women and children. The quiet passenger was a senior provincial official who was doing major infrastructure projects and deserves respect. The military officer quickly realized his arrogance was poorly placed. Soon, my car was completed (before the other two) and I bid everyone farewell. The political officials stood (as sign of respect) and shook my hand, thanking me for our time together. The military officer shot to his feet and saluted me as I walked away. It wasn’t your typical car wash after all.
The Holy Spirit impressed on my a simple lesson:
You never know who is around you. Treat people with respect and honor, where or not you think they deserve it. Those who appear to be powerful, may not be and vice versa. You are an Ambassador of Jesus 24/7 so, make sure you act like it.