I learned a lot on my first trip back to Vietnam, in 1991. But it was a dropped cookie that changed how I lived my life. One afternoon while talking with my cousins in the courtyard in front of my grandma’s house, I dropped a cookie–picked it up and gave it to the dog. My little cousin looked up at me and asked why I had done that. “because it fell on the ground–I can’t eat that.” He smiled shyly, and with a look of —i don’t know, regret–in his eyes, he said, “but I could have eaten that.” It pierced my heart and for a moment, I was speechless. All of a sudden,everything I had learned growing up in America seemed so foreign. And I realized the only difference between me and the many, many children whose families were too poor to even buy cookies, was luck. And so from that moment on, I told myself I would give something back. Pay it forward.
I’ve found that the more you give, the more you DO receive. Two weeks ago, when I first found out about the typhoon, I worked non-stop. Both at the news station, then when I got home–I was on the computer trying to get information, trying to get donations, thanking people who donated, searching for pictures, and before I knew it, it was 3am. My son wakes up every morning at 7am. I would work til midnight or so. I was running on fumes, and to make it worse, Dylan brought home a bad cold from school. That same week, his one year old sister also got sick, as did my husband, and me. Only the dog was spared. And yet–I kept up this kind of schedule for two weeks. Wiping their noses…trying to cool their fevers…giving my husband the “ancient chinese secret” “cao gio”…and battling my own sinus headaches. But something kept me going. And thank goodness–the colds weren’t flu’s and despite going on a few hours of sleep a night, I felt energized! My soul was being fed by the incredible kindness of my friends. And strangers. I’m still going. Planning. Thinking.