This I Believe

Lanly - Chandler, Arizona
Entered on October 16, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

I was never satisfied with anything: My full-sized bed wasn’t full enough, my gorgeous

Chandler home wasn’t big enough, and my tennis court-sized backyard was bereft of a tennis

court-sized pool. I always wanted more. My parents told me that if I worked hard in school, I

could be a pharmacist and become financially successful. The list of incentives that constantly

drove me to achieve straight-A’s consisted of dream-house mansions, gleaming black cars, exotic

escapes to remote islands . . . things like that. My teachers viewed me as a passionate and

determined student on the surface, but they never imagined the selfish intentions that I possessed

inside. I questioned my motives with sincere confrontation. I didn’t like that I was like this. God

smiled at my desire to change, and He decided to answer my prayers. It was the month of

September 2006 that changed my life completely. What took place in that two-week break

shined a golden light on matters that were of true importance.

It was from sunny Arizona to across the world to the third-world country called Viet

Nam. Culture shock. When I arrived in the humid airport, three beggars asked me to buy

lottery tickets. One of them was an old man who had no legs. Another was just a child not much

older than seven–or so I thought. “How old are you?” I inquired in Vietnamese. The little girl

replied. I was wrong. She was actually thirteen. I gave her some money, then watched her

approach other tourists — who only waved her away with the back of their hands. Some even

pretended that they didn’t see her, and ignored her constant pleadings.

I saw many horrors as I explored the countryside of my heritage, but it was a certain

acquaintance that turned my conscience and melted my heart. Chu Ngiep was the

motor-bicyclist that rode my mom and I around town. He had a good sense of humour and

frequently checked up on my grandma–who lived all alone with diabetes. His family of three

usually lives off of two-hundred dollars a month. I can get that much for doing chores. He always

hesitated at our money offerings for his credible service and was grateful for our kindness. One

day, I came to see his home. It was a crowded shack that was the size of my parent’s walk-in

closet. He told me that once he saves up five-thousand dollars, he could build a home for his

family and not just be a renter. The home he intended to build would be about as big as my

bedroom. I noticed a thin white film slowly growing over his right eye. He was going blind.

Doing anything about it was probably the last thing on his mind.

I went from culture shock to reality check. I was reminded of “The Matrix”, where Neo

woke up from his happy dream and had the cruelties of the real world punch him in the face. I

was extremely disconcerted. If Chu Ngiep’s family visited my “average” home, they probably

would have thought I was royalty. I was fifteen with a new-found purpose in life. If I had

money I could easily help — especially the many that are even worse off than Chu Ngiep.

My self-centered drives that motivated me to do well in school were replaced by a stronger

passion for helping the hungry and oppressed. I had always felt the usual pity for the

impoverished in general, but it wasn’t until I was directly immersed into their environment

before my desensitized heart really understand and begin to want to do something about it.

What a wonderful day it was when I found out that true happiness was not living for myself, but

for others. Sometimes human nature thinks it can fill up empty hearts by getting it all; who knew

that true satisfaction existed in giving it all? A self-less journey, the most golden purpose. Living

for others. This I believe.