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Voice of Justice: Habits and Sacrifices

Voice of Justice: Habits and Sacrifices


My niece, Emma, who is fifteen-months old and lives in Irvine,

California, has been attending music class. It's impossible to know

fully the impact that music will have on her life, but already her face

lights up every time she hears music and moves and grooves to the tunes

confidently, playfully, in perfect rhythm and style.  In seeing Emma

dance, I am reminded of Tiger Woods who as a toddler putted golf balls

every day with his father and the excellence of the Olympians achieved

through discipline and habits instilled at tender ages.

The wisdom of millennia back continues to resonate:  Train a child in

the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

The problem with habits is that the good ones require intentionality,

discipline, patience and hard work while the bad ones come only too


What are the admirable habits you as a parent, we as a society -

intentionally, purposefully, sacrificially - are instilling in our

children and young people?  Alternatively, what are the dark habits you

as a parent, we as a society are encouraging and permitting through

carelessness, apathy and lack of vision?

If we are wise and visionary, we must be intentional and purposeful in

our living by forming life-enriching habits in ourselves and our

children.  We are a generation, post-Khmer Rouge, uni- quely cast with

an opportunity and a burden:  Shall we squander the lessons of the past

and let our parents and family die in vain?  

Or, shall we live sacrificially and meaningfully for change, for

transformation - from violence to peace, hatred to love, vulgarity to

decency, fear to courage, arrogance to humility, mediocrity to

excellence, pettiness to largeness of heart, envy to praise, folly to

wisdom, inanity to knowledge, vacillation to perseverance, apathy to

passion, false- hood to truth, humiliation to dignity/nobility - in

order that our children may move away from this present darkness to

build a brighter future and join the world community of the 21st


Shall we merely exist, or shall we LIVE and live passionately by giving

the new generation str- ong shoulders to stand on, a firm foundation

from which to build for globalized, 21st century liv- ing?

The answer cannot be the current status quo.  It must be the latter; we

must live sacrificially; we must live intentionally and passionately

with shrewd single-mindedness for peace, love, decency, courage,

humility, excellence, generosity, nobility, wisdom, knowledge and truth

- all these words we throw around as good and true.

However, when I look around our society, I shudder at what I see and

hear being instilled and formed in our young people.  I see elementary

school students bribing their way through sch- ools, through their

young life - encouraged and applauded by the parents and our leaders,

very much comfortably at ease with corruption as a way of life.

I see young children in my neighborhood scavenging for rubbish when

they should be attending school, sniffing glue to numb their

existence.  I see a void of leadership at all levels of society,

beginning with us as civic leaders.  I see indecency and hear vulgarity

from us, about us.  

What I do not see often enough is children reading, adults reading,

parents parenting, leaders leading.  What I hear is lip service to

these values; what I do not see is the acting out of these values.  

These words of nobility, goodness, peace etc. are only words, empty

rhetoric if they are not habitually, incrementally instilled and

developed in each one of us.    We cannot do otherwise; we cannot

afford anything else.  Phrases such as "proud to be born Khmer" ring

hollow if we continue to cheat, kill and lie to and about each other.

A long time ago, I learned that there is no short cut to life.  In a

bling-bling culture, where only the surface matters, where things are

not what they seem, we are fooling ourselves to think we can exist as

we are now and acquire good habits and virtues without discipline,

without eff- orts, without education, without hard work, without


We must know our history, world history.  We must be better readers of

the patterns of life spanning the years and events of these histories. 

If we are at all paying attention, we would know that anything of value

and meaning must be paid for in real terms.  We value dignity?  Fight

for it.  Earn it.  We value freedom?  Fight for it.  Earn it. 

Apartheid did not end in South Africa without decades of struggle,

costing lives and 27 years of imprisonment for Nelson Mandela.  Think

Gandhi and his struggle for independence from British imperialism and

what it cost him and his countrymen.  Barack Obama is standing on the

shoulders of giants who came before him and paved the way for his

historic presidential candidacy; think Martin Luther King, Jr. and

decades of the civil rights movement.

What are the sacrifices we are making for our children?    What are the

habits we are intentionally living and imparting to prepare for a more

prosperous present and future?  What are the character-forming habits

we would like to see more in ourselves and in future generations?  What

are we doing to actualize them from empty rhetoric?

I agree with Dr. Mark Strom - my new favorite author - that the answer

to these habits and sacrifices which allow us to "live well" is not

magical but practical.  I also agree with him on four little sayings as

good reminders and a place to start:  take care in little things; big

doors swing on little hinges; faithful in little things, faithful in

big things; and leave people better than you found them.  


And always, READ.


Theary C. SENG

Executive Director


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