A little belated, but on the day of Christmas Eve, my aunt called us out to do some philanthropic work. Apparently every year, they go around giving gifts and money to the unfortunate. This was my aunt’s family, so I’m not directly related to them, as she married my uncle. We had plans that day, but my conscience wouldn’t really let us say no to helping people at Christmas, so I begrudgingly agreed to come along as well, and I’m so glad that I did.
We hopped into our giant van and went to pick up the goods. Which were boxes upon boxes with bags full of goodies inside. Snacks, food, cards… Extra things that they wouldn’t spend money on themselves, but I don’t think they even had money.
The first place we went to was a sort of old folk’s home. Being there, I just felt saddened by their situation. I know this is going to sound naive, insensitive, and shallow, but old people make me sad. My perception of them is rather paradoxical. They look frail, helpless, and after living for so many years, it’s amazing the strength they put forward to doing everyday things. And this is just the elderly in Canada. In Vietnam, if you’re unlucky enough to have selfish children (more prevalent than I’d care to admit), you’re stuck in these deplorable conditions, basically waiting to die.
I think there were about 50+ people in this place. Most were elderly, and there were a few that were mentally incapable. There were 3-4 people people in each room, each with a bed that looked like old war-time hospital beds. Many of these people had barely any possessions. Seeing some of them proudly boasting a grocery bags of their own things made you rethink your own lifestyle. It was just dismal to see these people with nothing to look forward to.
It was Christmas time, and if anyone were to get visitors, it’d be now. But no family, no one to come visit. Walking along the halls, the people would wait eagerly in front of their doors. I’d like to think that they were excited to have people there, but with a jaded perception of Viet people, I’m sure most of them just wanted what we were going give them (bag of stuff and about 20,000 Vietnamese dollars) and wanted us to gtfo. Not all of them, mind you. I hope.
Nevertheless, giving to people like this, and bettering their lives in at least one aspect for a day felt good. Even if I don’t do it on a regular basis, even though I am in no way a less selfish, more philanthropic person, it was nice to have done it. I’m glad I didn’t back out at the last second. I don’t think I’m such a wonderful person now, after one day of humanitarianism, that I’ve done my piece for the world and can just slack off for the rest of my life. It’s hard to explain, but it definitely made me rethink where I come from, how blessed I am to have everything that I do, how to live my life, and how to treat other people.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” – Plato
In addition to individual gift bags, we supplied the complex with several bags of rice for communal use as a way of helping the (foundation? home? charity?) take care of these people.
After a bit of conversation with the people who run the place, a lot of thank you’s and well wishes were exchanged and we were on our way to the next destination, one on the opposite spectrum and quite a bit cheerier and more hopeful considering the subject.
A boarding school partitioned into two sections: community and education for blind or visually impaired children, and child care for mentally handicapped children. They have a braille printing room that I wanted to see into, but didn’t feel it was appropriate for me to ask. I’d love to see how one of those things work though. I guess this is why Google is my best friend.
The children were exuberant and downright giddy. Surprisingly, they were very well behaved for their age. I don’t say that because they’re blind, but because they’re Vietnamese. No, I don’t have a very high opinion of the people and I’m generally wary of them due to experiences and interactions with them throughout my life.
Moving on. They were very quiet, sat still, listened to us, smiled, were very grateful for their gifts, almost surprised. When we announced that we had little gift bags for each one of them, smiles lit up all around. It made me so happy to see them so happy. Yeah, I teared up a little, but only because none of them could see me get so emotional. I tactfully turned away from the people I was with.
They were laughing and joking with each other, as kids do, and it was nice to see that yes, they were just children being children. They weren’t so drastically different from everyone else and there is a predisposition to judge them as such, but it was a good reminder that we, as a race, are not so drastically different from each other. Children from each corner of the world are, after all, still children.
The kids treated us to two songs. A wonderful way to spend Christmas Eve (day).