Restitution: A Story About Second Chances


by SreyNget  (8 years old) – Cambodia

A butterfly, a worm, and a boy were playing in a field near a flower-tree. The boy saw the butterfly flying around, and decided he wanted to catch the butterfly. He chased it around and around until he finally caught it. But after he caught the butterfly, he killed it. He didn’t know why; he just did it. Then, he saw the worm climb up the tree. Now he wanted to play with the worm. He grabbed the worm, and started hitting the worm with a stick. He didn’t know why; he just wanted to.

The police heard about the boy being mean to the small animals, so they came and arrested him. Then, the police hit the boy the same as he had hit the butterfly and worm. They said all living things, including the small animals’ lives are the same as his. They put him in jail and didn’t give him any food. Eventually, the boy died.

After some time, the boy was then reborn as a little girl. After being reborn, she became very kind to all of the animals. She didn’t remember her life as the mean little boy, but she knew it was wrong to hurt others, so she spent the rest of her life helping animals and other people. She didn’t know why; she just felt it was right.


Another story from Cambodia. And you might have noticed a bit of a dark trend with these Khmer kiddies. I think it honestly lies in not only the country’s very painful history, but also because the kids don’t actually have many outside influences. Most of the kids I worked with didn’t have television, or even internet. What they did have is a large dose of the reality of their existence. These kids work long days on farms, they walk often over 10 miles (16km) to school, and they constantly are on the lookout for someone to take what is theirs. SreyNget herself had to leave the school shortly after this photo was taken so that she could take care of her family’s farm while her parents were both in the hospital after an accident (remember, she’s 8 years old). With a reality like this, the idea of “appropriateness” isn’t even a concept worth bothering about.

But, as dark as this story gets in act 2, it isn’t all about woe. When I asked SreyNget about her story, she said it was a happy one, that taught about the value of life. We again see that police are not usually seen as the good-guys in Cambodia (as in the earlier stories, Farmland Security and Under Fire). But while their deeds are quite scary, the lesson she is showing here is one rooted deep in Buddhist philosophy. I don’t think the purpose of the police abuse to the child is to show proper punishment (remember, they aren’t the good guys here, and Cambodian police aren’t often known for fare practices). The lesson is to show the idea that all life is equally sacred, and that his rebirth gives him a second chance to live this ideal.

And for anyone wondering about why the bad one is a boy and the good one is a girl, SreyNget assured me that boys aren’t bad; She just wanted add herself in as the good one that helps others. Perhaps it’s an ideal she sets for herself in real life.


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