Friday, March 9, 2012

Community Service Week Eight

     This week at Loving House, Bernie joined us as we trimmed and painted nails for the women elders there.  A woman whose nails I had done before requested my services once again.  I felt both humbled and honored.  At one point during the process she had Victor come and work on her fingernails while I did her toenails.  I looked up and I saw her watching Victor.  The look on her face was priceless, it said “Oh dear boy you are so young and pretty.  I just want to touch you.”  Then she touched his face.  He was focused on his task and a bit surprised when she touched him.  Then the moment was passed, but I will never forget the look on her face.  It is moments and connections like this that there is no other way to find then by being here and allowing myself to be swept up in the moment and our activities.  As I said… priceless.
     ‘Swept up’ certainly describes Tuesday morning at the Agent Orange group home.  We had coloring pages and the 10 packages of stickers Bernie brought with her planned for them.  With about an hour left on our two hour visit there, it was clear to me we would need something more.  I began handing out pieces of paper about seven inches square.  I just wanted to see what they would do with them.  We began to see origami and then a paper airplane whizzed by my head.  After that we could not make paper airplanes fast enough.  They were flying all over the room with the sound of weeeeee or a whistle during the toss.  The other sound we heard was the uncontrollable giggles of the kids.  We could not have planned it this way.  I admit they had me; I was just as much a kid as any one of them in the room.  Bernie thought it was ironic for me to be making paper airplanes in Da Nang where forty-four years ago I worked on military airplanes.
I have to agree, and this was much more fun.
     The first of our Agent Orange home visits on Thursday was a wonderful success story.  There is a program here which sponsors poor families whose children need heart surgery.  The little four year old girl we visited today had surgery four months ago and is doing very well.  Her weight is now almost within the normal range.  I sensed an aura of gratitude from her mother, as if a great weight had been lifted from her life.  When mom pulled up the girl’s shirt to show her scar I pulled up mine so she could see we share something.  Of course like most four year olds this little girl was very shy around the strange people in her house. 
     Our second Agent Orange home visit was with the family of a fifteen year old boy with cerebral palsy.  Even though his right side is paralyzed he is able to walk and maneuver himself around.  He attends the Agent Orange group home in his area and enjoys his time and his friends there.  Before he went to the group home some of the other kids in the neighborhood picked on him because he is different.  I remember being picked on because other kids thought I was different.   It seems like kids are kids no matter where I go.
     At Tuesday’s English class our topic of discussion was computers and the internet.  The question for the class was; “How have computers and the internet changed your life?”  There were many answers.  For working people it makes their jobs easier.  For example Thom is a Hydro-electric engineer and when he works on projects the computer makes his job much quicker.  The students all said it is easier to do research with the computer.  They also acknowledged the negative aspect of spending too much time on “facebook.”  Of course they assured me that was only their friends, not them.
     For Thursday we combined classes due to International Women’s day.  When we asked the class to tell us what they knew about International Women’s Day we did not get a big response.  Someone said it was about flowers, someone else said it was about respect.  It was good that we combined the class because when the men said it is good if women stay home and not work, Victor and I came down on two sides of the old debate; women in the home don’t work.  We listed everything a woman who stays at home dose such as laundry, cooking, cleaning, childcare, and food shopping.  Then I said, “So what I am hearing is that the men believe none of these things are work.  Is that right?”   So Victor defended the men while I criticized the Confucian ideology.  I think it came out balanced and I hope I did not make any enemies.  
     I want to include the website for a video series that may interest you     These experiences of being of service to others have become some of the richest of this trip to Viet Nam.
There are also some Non Government Organizations (NGO) doing good things here is the website for the group working to clear Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) from Quang Tri province.  The fund that is helping victims of Agent Orange is 
A gift to one or both or these NGOs is a direct gift to the people who need the help the most.  If you feel called to help you may trust that your donation will go a very long way.  Who knows, your gift could be responsible for a success story like the one I saw this week.  That would be awesome!  Remember it is paradox in paradise so next vacation visit beautiful Viet Nam
Hen gap lai

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