One Vietnamese woman’s story will help put everything in perspective.
Throughout my travels in Southeast Asia, I’ve met many poor people who work many hours for very little pay, women who’ve been abused by their husbands and boyfriends, single moms who somehow find a way to make ends meet, and people who are generally less fortunate than almost any American.
Let me introduce you to one of those people.
In August of 2018, I started staying at this hotel in Vietnam for a while. Usually, I prefer Air BnB, but this hotel was an exception. The employees and I shared great conversations and some good times. We talked, traveled, and ate together much more than most hotel employees and guests.
One day, I learned more about one of them. Her name is Ha.
She works 14 hours/day, 7 days/week, and makes 4.5 million Vietnamese Dong/month. As soon as I learned this, I reached for the calculator on the hotel desk. That’s 98 hours/week, every week, at 10,597 Dong/hour ($0.46/hour).
She’s also a single mother. She got a divorce because her ex-husband beat her.
Somehow, she finds enough money to pay for karate lessons for her daughter. Why? After her daughter gets married, Ha wants her daughter to be able to defend herself from her future husband, if needed.
After I learned both of these facts, back-to-back, I was silent, numb, motionless, staring into nothing. There were no words.
What did she and Kan do in that moment? They continued watching a video on Ha’s smartphone, laughing, smiling, and were completely unaffected.
After what felt like an eternity, I looked at Ha and said the only thing I could think of: “I’m sorry.” Kan translated (he’s a Netflix translator). They both said, “it’s OK.”
Put everything in perspective
If you visit Vietnam, I hope you take the time to truly connect with the locals. They all have their own stories to share. Many of those stories put everything in perspective.
No matter how today – or any day – ends, please be thankful for what you have.
Tonight, you’ll go to sleep and when you wake up, you won’t be a physically abused, single, Vietnamese mother, working 98 hours/week, making $0.46/hour, and somehow finding the money to pay for karate lessons for your daughter so she can defend herself from her future wife-beating husband.
That person exists. Let her amazing story of perseverance inspire you to be strong, in any moment. Ha smiles and finds something to be thankful for. I hope you do, too.