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Maryknoll Lay Missioner, Cambodia Region
English Teacher at The Royal University of Phnom Penh
July 2013
Today, as I was leaving my classroom at the university, Sreytoich, a small, shy and giggly English student stood up to stop me, pulled out a small, clear plastic bag from her book bag and handed it to me.  I quickly looked inside the bag and saw a glass bottle filled with some orange-colored drink and a straw.  I thanked her, and hesitated a moment with the thought to ask her if she, herself, had something to drink since I didn’t want to take her drink, but decided to graciously accept this wonderful, unexpected gift and continued walking out of the classroom.
I slowed my gait down for a moment and stared down at the plastic bag, shaking my head in awe and amazement at the generosity of this student who doesn’t have the money to be giving me a drink but did so anyway and with a wide smile on her face.
Did she think I looked rather tired when I taught, or thirsty because of my bike rides to and from the university every day?  Did she give me the drink as a small token of her appreciation for my allowing her to come late to class since she just got a job teaching English to young children and needs the extra time to make her way to school?  Is this just a reflection of her natural, generous spirit?  I’m not sure, but this small, meaningful gift made me look at her, at all my students with new eyes, with the kind of openness to daily blessings that comes when someone’s simple act touches you deeply and you have to respond in some way.  This is my response, to tell the short story of one student and one moving experience.
I realize that the university students that I teach are not just a blurry mass of faces sitting in desks.  They each have their own unique personalities, individual joys and concerns, and my greatest hope as a teacher and friend is to get to know each of them, guide them, and help them along.  But most importantly, I learn from them, and today’s gift was a clear, memorable lesson in giving to others without desiring anything in return.

Erik Cambier
Erik Cambier served as Maryknoll lay missioner for 25 years, in Tanzania, the United States, Venezuela and El Salvador.