BY: Nguyen Thi Thu Thao Professional Fellow YSEALI program
“This trip would not be completed without YOU!”
This quote was taken from one of the thank you cards one team sent to Mr. Tuyen Pham. At that time, I thought this definitely was what I wanted to say to all of the people who made this trip happen: you did do everything you could for me, and you planted the seeds to change my life and my community…this trip would not be completed without YOU!
I’m not the president or a famous person, one who can stand in front of a thousand people, or the author of the book writing a thank you message to anyone who helped her finish her wonderful masterpiece; but I am me, and this opportunity inspired me to write a new chapter in the my own book of my life and my community life.
The first chapter of my life, a sad chapter, began when I was a child. My father is an orphan and I experienced a lot of domestic violence in my childhood from my father’s adopted relative. I intended to leave the house but had no other choice. I didn’t have a good school performance at the very first start. A hard experience I had was when I attempted suicide by biting the tongue like the actress in a Chinese film, but I failed because it was too painful. I was a sensitive, un-confident, and depressed girl, but a girl grows up day by day. These characteristics were following me throughout the chapters of my life. Many of these experiences I have questioned, I did not know the reason for some of my pain. This trip helped me know the reason why, a bigger purpose for me that I could understand.
At first, the purpose of my trip was seeking skills such as leadership skills and all the skills involve tỏ NGO management, fundraising, and learn American culture to help myself and my community; but you have taught me more than that. You have helped me see a bigger picture where all the people working together – no matter if you are university student, businessmen, social worker or NGO staff, university lecturer, or native American person, you can be willing put your hands to help each other to build a better community. I remembered an example Ms. Karen gave us in her lesson about the leadership was a thousand year old tree live longer than any kind of tree in the forest. She said that scientist discover the reason why they lived longer than the other tree not because they have one deep and strong root but because have thousand of small roots make a large root all over the ground help defend them with all the storms. You have shown me what makes you strong is coming together to help each other face with any storm happen in your life. By binding together, make the strong root.
You have also helped me to realize that anyone can become a good leader, one who connects the people together. The core of leadership, and any aspect of life, is friendship. And the friendship starts with letter “A for ATTITUDE”. Thank you for letting me know that I can not be a friend with anyone or any animal if I do not change my attitude toward them to understand them, to stand in the place to think for them.
Before this trip, I never knew the reasons why many Americans love dogs and cats so much, until I realized that it is because they understand them. My host family has two cats and I loved the cat more than any time now because I know that one of the cats was abandoned when she was a baby. My host mother told me how one of her daughter took the baby cat home and took care of her and love her. The cat makes me think of my father and of course I love my host family, who are willing to love and help other people unconditionally, and the adopted cat, more and more.
At the office where I learned, they also have two dogs. I love the dogs, but I don’t like the feeling to have a very gentle bite on my hands. One day a lady at the office told me the story why they often bite very gently on hands. The dogs came here when they were the puppies and saw that when people meet they shake hands. The puppies thought that when they bite very gentle on the human hand they were shaking their hand to show them they are welcome and friendly. Of course, right after this, I would like them to bite my hands because now I understand my action. I also especially impressive with a saying from the gentlemen office: “ I will not let people adopt the puppies until they grow up more, and show them their characteristics”. Yes, if the adopted people won’t understand the puppies, or don’t love their characteristics as the way they they are, how they can love them?
I know a truth for myself and my community: “Individual and community development starts from the attitude”. The good attitude only comes from understanding between the people in the community. When you didn’t love someone or something just because you don’t understand them or didn’t spend enough time to try to understand or another reason, you did not have the knowledge enough to understand and then to change your attitude.
Yes, I now know how to start the resiliency that leads to self-empowerment and healing of myself. With this knowledge I can help myself and my community to change in order to build a large root together. It starts with the letter “A for Attitude”. To have a letter “A” we needed your help to build the letter “E for Educated” which leads to change the attitude.
Thank you again for giving me a chance to experience and change my attitude and change the community attitude in the future.This trip wouldn’t be completed without YOU. If I forget to say thank you to you, please know that in my heart and my mind, your kindness is appreciated.