Vnexpress.net, the most widely read news site in Vietnam, has 2 sections that i check regularly: Letters from Readers, and Talk Confidential (similar to an advice column, but responses come from other readers in the comment section). It’s always fascinating to peek into people’s private lives of hidden torments and concealed struggles (hence the popularity of confession boards and postsecrets). There are too many stories of cheating and hurting, of love running astray and running dry. It sure makes me feel grim. I have to constantly remind myself that these two sections have an inherent bias: most people are motivated to write only in despair or at a loss. There are plenty of unwritten stories of hope and perseverance, of love and dedication. The following are the most recent that I’ve come across:

At 74, Mr. Dzung maintains a healthy gait. He normally goes without shirt at home. The roof bars on one side of his wooden house have already been eaten by termite. During the rainy season, he sleeps as far away from that side as possible. Mr. Dzung lives with his granddaughter who’s now in 6 grade and has been in his care most of her life. When her father, Mr. Dzung’s son, died from an accident, her mother called the old man and said she couldn’t take care of the baby by herself. So he went to the south and took the 1-year-old home. By that time, he was already raising another granddaughter. When that girl was still an infant, only 4 months and 3 days old, her mom passed away. The father was in shock, left the house, and was never heard of again. The girl is now married, has a daughter of her own, and lives with her new family.
At home, you might see Mr. Dzung’s son, 41 years old and never married. He has spinal pain and can only do very light work. When he’s not doing anything, he lies down on the hammock in the middle of the living room cum bedroom. Walking across the sparsely furnished room to the back, before you get to the chicken coops, you’ll see the fourth person of the house: Mr. Dzung’s youngest daughter. She has never spoken a word ever since she was born 33 years ago. Every day, her father moves her from the bed at the corner and sits her up, and there she sits the whole day, save for the times when he takes her to go to toilet or take a bath. Every single thing that she needs, he does it, including cleaning during her period. At 33, except for the grown body, she’s still the same as a new-born baby. He’s been her sole caretaker for the past 17 years, since his wife passed away.

Mr. Canh was born with deformed legs. His lower legs measure only 20 cms. He still learned to walk, and could walk fine until 5 years ago when his knees started to hurt. Soon after, his wife had a stroke and was paralyzed and could no longer speak. She’s a large woman, much bigger than her husband. Mr. Canh couldn’t take care of her all by himself, so she was moved in with their never-married daughter, who staffs a drugs store 100m away on the main road. For the past 3 years, every day, Mr. Canh walks to his daughter’s. There, he massages his wife’s unresponsive limb; he rubs her clean with a towel even though she doesn’t even seem to be conscious of what’s going on. Every day he walks that 100m, even though the pain cuts into his bone and keeps him from sleeping at night.

Neither of these men holds any illusion about their hard life; and I’m in no way glorifying their misfortune. But even though life seems to deal them one bad card after another, their heart is still big enough to love and care for others. Is there any excuse for me to ever to unkind to others? I don’t think so. If I am ever so, I just need to say it, that I fucked up, that I was bad, and I will try my best to make it up.

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