Week Five.

I listen with attention to the judgment of all men;

but so far as I can remember,

I have followed none but my own.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)

I partly read this book as my #5 because it was complementary to my current academic studies. So. I quasi-cheated. But, no one cares, and neither should I. Also, since I’m now well-versed on the Sachs-Easterly debate, I can cross off : #136 of Things Expat Aid Workers Like.


The book: The White Man’s Burden by William Easterly

The memory: can’t won’t talk about “aid” on a large, global scale because it’s tricky and messy and disheartening. But generosity, at any amount, is uplifting and beautiful. How do I know?

Because the entire chapter of my volunteer experience in Hue has been written by the generosity of others. Everything workshop, every project, every memory have all been built by the hands of others. Shelter Volunteer Extracurricular Club, Sunflower Mission Workcamps, Shelter Camping, StrengthQuest Workshops, Staff Retreats, Leadership Training, Photojourney Project, Gallery Exhibition, Tedx Talk, and the many, many talent shows, birthday celebrations: all have been gifts.

I remember very vividly this one day, during a break session at the SM Workcamp, Hy (my fellow-youth-empowerment-brother-in-action) and I were discussing amongst ourselves how we were going to find money in the budget to print our 3rd annual yearbook for the kids. Ms. Katherine Tran, another volunteer, overheard us, and inquired about the yearbooks. After we explained, she immediately, without hesitation, donated $100. We refused, but she insisted, upon which we humbly accepted. Her donation allowed this to happen:

Slide20 Slide21

I know yearbooks may not sound as important in the grander scheme of things, but, man, they are so special to these kids. I still catch the kids secretly flipping through the 1st yearbook from 2008-2009. It encapsulates their youth, their laughter, and their friendships throughout the years. I don’t know if I’ve ever adequately thanked Katherine, nor do I know whether she really knows just how much her donation meant to all of us, but I do know that I still cling onto that yearbook on the days (and there are many) when I miss those kids oh-so-much.

Back in 2009, I was so arrogant as to believe that I was ‘forging’ my own path, stubborn and hard-headed as I was. Only now am I beginning to fully see just how much others have had a hand in crafting my entire…life. This entry isn’t about my “epiphany” into being a better person, or learning gratitude, but really, this entry is simply my first endeavor at celebrating all of those whose generosity is overflowing.

Thank you, sincerely.

End, Memory Five.

Next Week: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain


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