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.
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