Walking down Bangla Road in Patong, Phuket, Thailand I was propositioned by a girl who asked me to take her home. Grabbing my arm and speaking in very broken english, a fire of desperation in her eyes, she made it very clear that she wanted me to purchase time alone with her. At first i was startled, completely caught off guard and quickly smiled, turned down her persistent advances, and went on my way. At the moment it was all to easy to say no, but I was left with a sadness that I can not shake, and an imprint on my soul forever burned by those desperate eyes.
Having turned down a thousand Tuk Tuk drivers, and all but one offer for a massag, (the establishment I chose made it clear that they do NOT solicit sexual favors) it was far too natural to turn her away, almost ignoring her. However, as soon as I left I was overcome by sadness for her, her situation, the situation she may find herself in later with another man, and the fact that at that moment all I could really offer her was prayer.
I was also startled by my unnaturally high tolerance to such things. Bangla road is a place that houses a dark ring of sexual perversions and many cases of human trafficking and sexual slavery. How is it that I could walk down one of the most sinister streets in Thailand, completely immune to the sin that surrounded me?
Naturally I would like to claim ignorance, but that can not be said in truth. I am well educated on the topic of deviant behavior, and even chose human trafficking as the topic for my graduate school entrance essays. In all honesty I think it was a classic case of "out of sight, out of mind." I chose only to see what I wanted to see. I also believe that my many "prodigal" years have made me conditioned to such things and created an immunity to sin that is hard to shake. As the old Native American story goes, we are all born with two wolves inside of us, one good and one bad. The one that wins is the one we feed. While my bad dog may now have a muzzle on him most of the times, I find that his blind eyes are still stronger than those of the innocent one.
How often do we do this in our lives? How often do we walk around, ignoring the poverty, sin, desperation, loneliness, helplessness, and heartache in those surround us? How often do we ignore those same things within ourselves? As for me, I can tell you that I do it all the time.
That moment in Phuket is one that has stuck with me, and I pray that it continues to do so for a long time. Perhaps it needed to happen to better prepare me for the field social work. Perhaps it will give me a leg up when helping the vulnerable victims of human trafficking. No matter what, I have learned a valuable lesson, that ignorance is not bliss.
If I could do one thing over, I would have stayed to talk with her there, asking for her story. I can pray all I want, but what I really want to do is get involved. It is my duty as a Knight of the Holy Queen, and my duty as a man. As Pope John Paul II said, "God has entrusted to man the dignity of every woman." I will no longer take a blind eye to such things, or be guilty of the bystander syndrome, assuming that someone else will do the work. Rather, I will be the change I want to see in the world.
Beautiful young lady on the street, whoever you are, wherever you go, whatever you do, I hope you stay safe and discover the truth about yourself: that you are deeply loved, a daughter of the King, and that you have infinite worth and value. You will be in my prayers.