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Lions Roar : March 2017
“What I didn’t count on was the emotional trauma of moving between this indulgent lifestyle and then, within twenty-four hours, standing in probably the most squalid, impoverished place in the world, where children and mothers are dying in front of you for lack of simple medical care. Having those two worlds come together was something I couldn’t live with.” Neeson’s moment of clarity came calling—literally. “There was a well-known actor I was dealing with at the time and we were on the road for publicity. I’d left for Cambodia and he was going to Tokyo. I went straight to the garbage dump. One of the grandmothers was visibly agitated and took me to four young children under the age of ten. They were dying, and no one was able to take them to hospital. The children didn’t belong to any- one. I didn’t know what to do. It was horrible. “At that moment, my cell phone rang. It was the actor and his agent on the tarmac in Tokyo. He was quite angry because we had put the wrong amenities on his private jet. Then he calmed down for a moment and said, ‘My life just wasn’t meant to be this difficult.’ “This is what he said to me as I was standing there with those dying children. It was the most clarifying moment, because all the anxiety I had about giving up my job to live in Cambodia, all that fear, went away. It was gone. There was no clearer signal to me that I was on the right path. It changed my entire perspective. I went back to Los Angeles and resigned the following Monday.” Not everyone there thought it was the right choice. “The rest of the world was telling me I was out of my mind, that I had the job everyone dreams of,” Neeson says. “But I didn’t want it anymore.” When Neeson visited the Stung Meanchey dump in Phnom Penh, he was horrified to see 1500 children scavenging for food and survival. It was so hot he got burns on his feet from molten garbage. As a human being, as a living, breathing person, I had an obligation to help. I was hooked by how easy it was to change the life of a child. LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2017 39