We went to a village in Vietnam to give away some school supplies from the money we raised for the charity work we do with Project Sprouts. Project Sprouts helps impoverished schoolchildren in Vietnam with school supplies, winter coats, and boots. As part of our recent delivery of school supplies, we also visited five women living alone in a small village outside Hanoi, Vietnam I was grateful.
As we visited with these Vietnamese women, I began to realize that no matter how many times in my life I have felt loneliness, sickness, or even the creeping up of old age, I have never felt as lonely, sad, or alone as many of these women in that village felt. These women are truly alone since, like in many countries, Vietnam does not have a real safety net for older people.
Read on to discover some inspiring stories about gratitude.
Table of Contents
- Why I Am Filled With Gratitude
Stories of Gratitude From The Women In the Villages in North Vietnam
- Lan – Alone Without Any Family or Anyway to Earn an Income
- Hoa – Unable to see properly, she collects rubbish to sell, and her husband and children both left her.
- Chi – Sick with Parkinson’s disease and also homeless, so must depend on strangers to help
- Huyen – has breast cancer, and her husband left her.
- Thanh – Widow, completely blind in a small house with a leaky roof.
- Life Lessons on Loneliness from the women in the village – We Can All Be Grateful
- Related Questions
Why I Am Filled With Gratitude
When I see people who have so much less than I have, it fills me with gratitude for all my blessing. I feel gratitude for all the many blessings in my own life.
When I met these women in the villages in North Vietnam, each of them had their own sad stories. But as I listened to their stories, I was filled with amazing gratitude for them and the lessons I could learn from them.
Stories of Gratitude From The Women In the Villages in North Vietnam
I am so grateful to these five women: Lan, Hoa, Chi, Huyen, and Thanh, for allowing me into their lives and home. Their own lives it has taught me to be more grateful for all I have been given in life.
Here are the stories of these amazing women:
Lan – Alone Without Any Family or Anyway to Earn an Income
Lan had no family, and she lived alone in a small house. Her parents had died, she had never married, and she had no family to take care of her. We also understood that she was a bit mentally challenged and that working a job requiring a lot of skill was very difficult for her, so she could only do very simple work.
Her home was almost completely bare. She did not even have a fan to keep her cool during the hot summer months. The most excellent thing she had was an old carved altar with photos of both her parents above the altar. I asked her if they were her parents, and she proudly answered.
Life Lesson Learned from Lan – Gratitude For Love
When I looked at Lan, I realized that something universal in almost every country is a parent’s love for their child and that child’s love for their parents. In the case of Lan, this love continued on with her, even after their death, as she proudly and prominently displayed both her parent’s photos on the altar in her tiny home.
Hoa – Unable to see properly, she collects rubbish to sell, and her husband and children both left her.
One thing that seems to be a universal truth in all the women we visited, many were left destitute as their husbands left them and their children had forgotten them. This was the case with Hoa. She had a feeble vision, so she could not see well or well enough to hold down any work.
She told us that her husband had left her and her children never came to see her to help her. She was pretty much left all alone in the world. She would go out and collect scrap paper to sell to earn some extra income.
When you travel around Vietnam or other parts of Asia, and you see the men and women who are out collecting scrap paper, you know they are generally destitute. Collecting a garage to sell is one of the lowliest of work as they earn so little from the paper, cans or other bits of garbage they collect. Despite earning such a small amount, Hoa was happy with every single cent she could earn.
Life Lessons Learned from Hoa – Gratitude For Work
I look at Hoa, and I think about the gratitude that we should all have for our work. Even if our work is picking up scrap paper to sell for a small amount of income, we at least have work. Something is compelling in hard work, and being able to work should be a blessing in our lives.
Chi – Sick with Parkinson’s disease and also homeless, so must depend on strangers to help
Chi has no home, so she must depend on the kindness of strangers to help her. She is working and living at a lacquer factory and the family who has hired her for lacquer production is kind enough to allow her to stay with them.
If being homeless and without any family is not bad enough. Chi is also ill with Parkinson’s disease. The disease causes her hands to shake as she tries to sand the lacquer production.
As Chi sat there in front of us, she cried. You could see the loneliness and pain coming out for her, and you could feel and see her suffering and despair in her face with the reality that she will more than likely spend the rest of her life in the home of some stranger who will bring her into their home, so she is not out on the street.
Thank goodness for those unspoken men and women who are the angels among us and love and care so much for the suffering of another human being.
Life Lessons Learned from Chi – Gratitude For Others Kindness
Sometimes in life, our blessings can come from others. Though Chi is alone and has no home or family, the kindness of strangers does not leave her completely out on the streets to beg or fend for herself.
Feeling lonely? Look at your life and look around you at those who have helped you. Write in a gratitude journal all about those who have helped you, reached out to you, or said a kind or loving word. Be grateful for them and their kindness.
Huyen – has breast cancer, and her husband left her.
I had met Huyen quite a few times as she works in a lacquer factory that we work with. This factory had taken in her and is trying to help her by giving her paid work throughout her breast cancer ordeal.
When her husband found out she was sick, he packed his bags and left her. She has a son, but as he is in University and she does not want to ask him for money or have him leave his studies. So, every day whether she is sick or well, she will walk the distance from her home to the factory so that she can work.
This story of women getting sick, husbands leaving, and children not helping out as much as they can or should be a story or pattern I have found to be all too common among these destitute women. Vietnamese parents may still hold the old values from traditional Vietnamese society, where one should always look out for their family.
But with modernization also comes the breakdown of these values, and so many women like Huyen are left alone, or their spouses leave them when they get sick.
I am not sure why they would leave them; truth be told, the spouse that left was probably planning to leave before their spouse ever got sick. Maybe it is just that they could not be bothered with having to nurse or take care of their wife throughout her breast cancer ordeal, or it could simply be that they did not want the financial responsibility that would come with the increased costs of the medical bills.
Whatever the reason, leaving a loved one because they are sick is terrible and inhumane.
Life Lessons Learned from Huyen – Gratitude For Those That Care
Being sick is hard enough, but being sick and alone is terrible for anyone to go through. But even Huyen is not alone. She has people who care for her. People who are there for her and make sure she can get to the hospital to get her medication.
A lesson we can all learn from this is to look around our neighborhoods, communities, schools and places of work – do you see someone who is lonely or alone? Go over and be their friend. Reach out to them, love them and let them know you care.
Thanh – Widow, completely blind in a small house with a leaky roof.
Imagine that you are over 80 years old, you are completely blind, and you live in this small house that has a leaky roof – a roof that is so leaky – that each time it rains, the rains come pouring into your home and make your bed, the few clothes you have and everything else very wet. That is what Thanh must deal with every single time it rains.
Yet despite these tough hardships, Thanh had just the sweetest smile ever. She told us her husband had died about 40 years ago when he was in the army. She had one child, but he never came to see her, so she was very much alone.
Sometimes her neighbors would take her into their house when it rained, and sometimes they would give her something to eat. But most of the time, she was left alone – in her blindness and loneliness.
Life Lessons Learned from Thanh -Gratitude For A Smile Even In Tough Times
When I think of Thanh sitting on the small stoop of her house, I think of her smile. It taught me that no matter how difficult life can be, no matter how harsh life is, we can always smile. That day when I looked at Thanh’s beautiful smile, I realized that we could all smile – even if our heart breaks.
Life Lessons on Loneliness from the women in the village – We Can All Be Grateful
When I look at these five women we met, I realize that during my life, when I have felt lonely, I could pick up the phone and call a friend. These women did not even have telephones, so they could not call that friend.
The life lesson I realize from this is that no matter how completely lonely I may think I am, there are always others who are more lonely than I am. No matter how little I may think I have in life, there are always those who have so much less than I will ever have.
Instead of looking at what I do not have or how lonely I may feel, the greatest lesson I learned from these women in the villages is that I have so much to be thankful for. We all have so much to be thankful for. So make a mental note of your blessings, or write them down in a gratitude journal. You will realize that we all have many blessings when you do that.
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What is a Gratitude Journal?
A gratitude journal helps us all to focus on the positive things in our lives. Focusing on what we are thankful for should help us to have a more positive outlook on life. Some people use it as part of a regular journal and write down all they are thankful for each day. Others may just write down what they are thankful for when they have a reason to think of those things they are grateful. But however you decide to use your journal, it can be a powerful tool to reflect upon and think about your blessings.
Why start a Gratitude Journal?
One Christmas, I was feeling sorry for myself. I was miserable. I thought that life was not fair I was single and all alone in life. Sometimes when you feel lonely, you can feel it even more during the holidays.
I wrote an email to a dear friend and told her how I was feeling and how miserable I felt. I thought that maybe she would commiserate with me and agree with me. But instead, to my surprise, she wrote back and said: “Why don’t you start a gratitude journal?”
At first, I thought, why should I start one? I mean, after all, I am miserable, and I want someone to agree with me, I don’t want to write all about what I am thankful for.
Eventually, I decided I would try her suggestion, and I got out a notebook and started to write down all the things I was thankful for. The more I started to write, the more I began to remember things I was thankful for – and the more I wrote down my blessings and thankful for, the more positive I became.
So why write a Gratitude Journal? Writing a Gratitude journal, it will help you to feel more positive about your life. It will also help to wipe away a lot of hurt, anger, loneliness, disappointment or grief – because as you focus on your many blessings, your life will become more positive.
What do you need to start a gratitude journal?
Though there are journals you can buy, you can start with a notebook and a pen to start writing in your journal. If you prefer to write everything online, you can also start an online version. What is more important is not WHAT notebook you use or HOW you decide to write in a gratitude journal, but that you START to write one. A gratitude journal will help you focus on the positive things you have in your life, not the negative ones. That in itself is a potent tool.
Note: names used for the women in this blog are not their actual names, and the village’s location in Vietnam is not mentioned to respect their privacy.