For what will it profit a man
if he gains the whole world
yet forfeits his own soul?
There is a kind of perspective; one that is created when an individual sees something or someone or some situation in a different way for the first time. Sometimes this changes your perception, sometimes this changes your attitude, and sometimes this changes your life.
Consider Scott Neeson, a successful Hollywood mogul; President of Twentieh Century Fox, producer of blockbuster films like Braveheart, Independence Day, Titanic, X-Men, Star Wars, and hundreds of others. Living in a mansion, chums with the rich and famous, exotic cars, beautiful girl friends, a seven figure income, and his own personal yacht. The American dream by most standards. And he walkd away from it all.
In 2004, in between films, Scott took a sabbatical, a few days off for a backpacking trip in Southeast Asia. Upon the invitation of a friend in Cambodia, he visited Phnom Penh, the capitol, and then ventured out to Steung Meanchey, the toxic landfill on the outskirts of town, where he was mortified to find scores of children, rummaging through the rubble looking for food and recyclables. Among the discarded debris was refuse from hospitals that included syringes, body parts, even aborted fetuses. The unbearable stench was an overpowering mix of sulfur, rotting flesh, and human waste.
It started with two small girls he befriended at the dump. They were so filthy he had a hard time determining their gender. He asked to meet their mothers and gave them $10 each. He then promised their mothers $50 a month if they would clean up the girls and send them to school each day instead of the dump.
While he looked out the airplane window on his departure a few days later, he began to wrestle with the disparity between his life and the lives and futures of these children. He decided to try to come back each month to see if he could make a difference.
The epiphany came on one of those trips while standing in the stench and rubble of the dump, surrounded by children scavenging for their livelihood, when he fielded a call from a Hollywood agent. The agent proceeded to fume that the plane the studio had chartered for his Hollywood client, "did not have the correct brand of bottled water or the food that they required". Then the agent's prima donna client got on the phone and said, "Scott, my life is not supposed to be this difficult. Fix it!"
If there were any remaining doubts about whether this was the right thing to do, that settled it. Within a few months he left his job, waved goodbye to the seven figure salary, sold the LA mansion, the Porsche, and the yacht.
Today, his Cambodian Children's Fund provides housing, food, clothing, health care, education, and vocational training to more than 1,200 children and employs 445 staffers. The children go to public school for half a day and spend the rest of the day at CCF's own schools, learning English and computer skills. They now have the possibility of actually having a decent quality of life.
One man's epiphany.
Thousands of changed lives.