An act of charity

When I was living at home I use to hate it when my mom would command me to come out of my room because we have visitors because I knew that meant one thing: I had to go greet our visitors and ask if they were hungry or thirsty. If they were hungry I had to feed them and if they were thirsty I had to get them something to drink. Looking back now,I am grateful that my mom made me be the one to do this because now it is so easy for me to ask a total stranger if they were hungry or thirsty.
Who would have thought a Laotian tradition of seeing to the comfort of our guest would actually help me to comfort those outside my home.

We should began each day with an act of charity.  The first gesture should be towards ourselves because in order to teach others to value themselves, we must have a positive opinion of our own self-worth.  In order for that to happen, we need to be less judgement to what we perceive as our faults and flaws, whether it be physical or emotional.  There is nothing wrong to admit our weaknesses, but to fixate on it on a daily basis can prevent us from seeing the goodness in ourselves as well as others.  This brings to mind the definition of charity according to Encarta, “the willingness to judge people in a tolerant or favorable way.” I like this definition because it is the reason why we give to charities or create one of our own.  We give to others because we want to help them no matter who they are, what race they are, or what they are like.  We are tolerant of other people’s faults because we are aware of own shortcomings.  At least that is how I see it.I am saddened by many things I see everyday.  One of those things is the homeless situation in my community, the nation and the world. I can’t stand the idea that a person has no home to go to at the end of the day because I equate home with warmth, security, and happiness.  When I see a homeless person I wonder what they are going to eat today, where are they going to sleep at night, who is going to be there for them when they are depress or angry about life.  Also, I think about who cares about their welfare? Where is their family and how could they let them be homeless? I know there are a dozen reason or justification for a person being homeless, but it still upsets me to see them like this.

A couple of years ago I met a homeless man at the park who made me realize two important thing: 1) always act on my impulses 2) see the goodness in others no matter what. As I was leaving the park with my friend I noticed a man sleeping on the grass . His fits of coughing spasm cause me to stop, lean down and lightly tap him on the shoulder to ask if he was okay.  What started out as a polite question about his well being turned into a conversation about the mundane: the weather, the other people at the park etc.  Our topic of conversation was pretty random and nothing deep, but what happen afterwards had a profound affect on me.

I told the man to take care of himself and as I started to leave,he said, “Thank you for the conversation.”  That was it.  He didn’t ask me for money, food or anything.  I stared at him in surprise, amazed that he was grateful for our conversation and that was it.  When I got into the car with my friend I was telling her how bad I felt that I didn’t have any food or drink or something with me to give to him.  I could have gone back and taken him some food or drink, but at that point I didn’t how to help him without making him feel awkward that I knew he was homeless.  Even though I had nothing to give him except my time, I felt that me simply talking to him as an equal was valuable.

Since that day, I have learned to act on my impulses to help others without fear of what others will think of me or fear of humiliation of assuming too much or too little about someone’s situation.  When I see a homeless person I make it a point to ask them two things: 1) how are you and 2) have you eaten anything today?  Of course, I am sometimes uncertian whether the person is homeless or not, but it doesn’t hurt for me to ask those two questions. Getting yelled at or being told to go to hell is a small price to pay.  So far, neither has happened to me.  The people I meet has always accepted my offer of buying them a meal whether it is at a gas station or at a fast food place, wherever I see them.  I don’t expect anything, not even a thank you because I do these things because I want to.  Knowing that I have ease their hunger for that brief moment is more than enough.  Looking them in the eye and telling them to take care of themselves and not give up hope is something I always do when I walk away.

An act of charity is not just giving of things or monetary donations, it is act of caring for others with our words and deeds.


14 thoughts on “An act of charity

  1. amphone

    You are awesome! I can’t believe it. There is a moment in time when I was taught the same thing. Here is what I learned as a young boy growing up in America. We were so good to each others back then. My Laotian friends and I have no problem pulling out cash for each other when asked. No need to borrow. We Lao boys are so big hearted when it comes to spending. We were so generous to each others. Believe me, we know who is jai kab (narrowed hearted). They won’t be that way for long if they were to hang with us. We followed this code religiously. Another example is, everyone has to carry at least twenty dollars at all time. We like to say, “I got it,” when it comes to picking up the tap. Your story is so similar to mine but mine is about the mannerism among us Lao boys. We will fight to pay for the bill. Not only because the girls were around. No mam. We were good Lao boys. Those were the good old days. Now, if someone on the street as me for money, I will give. To save myself from being a liar or an over generous man, I keep only a few bug. Just in case I run into people who pan handling or poor homeless person. Believe me I always run into one and I always give because I know God is watching. He wants me to be good and generous to my fellow man.

  2. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Laos: Act of charity

  3. Laotian Teacher

    Amphone! Saibaidee! You and I have the same philosophy of giving to others and not expecting anything. I agree that it feels great to be able to say, ” I got this” when we are with our friends or family. Being able to pay for a meal for someone else is a way to let our friends and family know we enjoy their company and don’t mind treating them. My family and I take turns paying for each other. Usually, If I’m visiting my siblings they pay and when they visit me I pay.

    I like our Laotian tradition of giving and taking care of others. Our unselfishness to others always pay off in the end because our gesture always get returned in some way or other.

    I know there are people that panhandle and take advantage of others,but I don’t question their motives. The way I see it, I give because I want to and if people think they are taking advantage of me it’s okay because I didn’t expect anything from them anyway.

  4. noppanut (Bangkok), former name" kampong

    I am finding friend whose name Amphone Norrasingha, Laos, in LA. Who know her please let me know sir.

  5. amphone

    I know you don’t. Some can’t think of what to do. They beg or ask. In some poor countries people “Ha sao kin kam”=(find in the morning eat in the evening). This saying I learn a long time ago. I hen jai ca jao (I feel for them). In a country like the one we are in we look for the opportunity, place, and time to give to charity. Aren’t we are the lucky ones? We wake up trying to figure out our diet plan so we don’t get fat, how lucky we are..what recent act did you perform out of sheer kindness LT? Mom and Dad had tak baht and fund raising for the temple, I helped out. Felt good.

  6. Laotian Teacher

    Noppanut, the Amphone who commented on here is a male. Did your friend move to the U.S. or is she still in Laos?

  7. Laotian Teacher


    I know it is ironic that we have so much food and we have the luxury of actually going on a diet to loose weight while many people in all these countries are starving!

    My recent act of kindness… a month ago, my club kids and I from school, helped with Golf for a Cure (raising money for breast cancer research). It was a charity event where all these ladies paid to participate in a day of golfing and instruction from golf pros. What did my students and I do to help? We chased golf balls for four hours! Our job was to clear the field at each station so the golfers can golf. The ladies were older and amazingly gracious and sweet to us. They called me their lucky charm because they say when I would stand next to the hole and encourage them, the ball would go in! The ladies thanked us and give us high praise to the sponsors.

    Every month, my community service club, International Friendship Exchange, volunteer our time with with the mentally and physically disadvantaged. WE LOVE volunteering at all these events because they are the sweetest group of people.

  8. amphone

    Oh, forgot to mention Charleston Heston, a civil right activist and of late, “the Right to bear Arm.” What commandment I mean amendment was that? He died. I love to watch the Ten Commandment. He’s best in it.

  9. amphone

    Oh, I hope Coconut finds his friend. Amphone is usually a girl name. I have no idea why my parents name me that. Must be expecting a girl.

  10. Yea I agre you with all of you.We Lao people do have so much act of kindness in our heart without
    getting nothing in returned.I think maybe it’s because the way it was taugt through our past history.
    And funny thing that sometime people do tends to denied their feelings getting things in returned.
    They just don’t want to admit to it.In so many ways I do being naive with myself times when people
    ask from me and just give to them even when they don’t really need it.I wanted nothing in returned.
    I have no concern over this thing.I’m just watch out for thier well being.To me i no problem helping
    when it comes to helping out people sometime we do have to be careful who we help.I would want them
    to help me too if i’m in an emergenecy situation where i’m away from home and the only person is
    only a block on the street from me.Alot of time people do really wanted to help others when they have
    but the proble is some people are not at good saying no or don’t know how to say no.Like I said helping
    your people is a good karma but taking from people for your unecccsary personal excuse is not the to do
    a favor.

  11. Lao teacher,Did i hear it right that you also charity work for breast cancer by playing golf?That’s
    the message that i was trying to get it past month but had no luck with our Lao community.However
    i did management to volunteer myself helping to do a few work for the temple.Cut lawn and prune tree
    for the monk.Since you mention breast cancer I think we need more awareness education in our
    community.Most of the folks may heard of it but they never really understand what it really mean.We
    needs to do more to educate our ledrs.For years now I had a relatives who had not been so lucky
    to survive those cancers due to lack of understanding about the cure for breast cancer.One was my aunt
    and the following grandma.It was such a tragic stories.They didn’t know they had caner until it was too late to
    discover that they had cancer.The only way the find out they had cancer was when they are sick and to tired
    to do something..But anway it was long past i’m glad they lived to see their kids got married and have grand-
    children.So keep me post if you have another charity event in the near future i would love to get involved
    and help out.

  12. Lao teacher next subject on our topic coming on the next chat will be kids growing up in America Vs. kids
    living in Laos.The language Vs. the computers and alarm clock Vs. a rooster.Let’s see if any of these kids
    really knows about their identity and their culture.All Lao people from all over the world you are welcome to join the conversation.This should be interesting to learn about each other.So Everybody let’s have fun even if you
    don’t make sense we honor your comment.And remeber this is for everbody to join in no insult,no bad word,
    and any kind of bad behavior will be accepted.It’s about coming together and share ideas.I hope to hear from
    each soon?

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