No, sorry

Cambodia. Siem Reap. On a street somewhere after dark.

This girl walks up to us. She looks no more than eight years old. She could be slightly older, though. Malnutrition has probably stunted her growth.

She’s carrying a sleeping, dead-looking baby. The baby’s head hangs limp, neck wobbling all over the place, maybe from drugs.

The girl says, “No want money. No want money. Just food. Food for baby.”

The others in my group ignore her, like she and the baby don’t exist.

“No, sorry,” I say.

“No want money. Just food,” she repeats.

I shake my head again.

If we give her money, she’ll have to give it to someone else.

If we buy her food, even food for the baby, she’ll sell the food back to the store, at a loss of course, and then she’ll still have to give the money to someone else.

If we buy her food and stick around to make sure she eats it, she won’t. I know because I tried. Maybe she gets in trouble if she doesn’t give the money to someone else, her owner.

So, no, we don’t give her anything. Sorry, and I really am.