Deference

Three nights ago I rushed home because thunder and rain were both quickly approaching Hoan Kiem Lake. Drizzle had already begun falling on Le Thai To street and winds were heavy. Mostly everyone had found shelter either in an alleyway or underneath the thin hoodie of a raincoat. All but few seemed well prepared; among those who were not was a woman well into her seventies who squatted with the posture of defeat alongside one of the high-rent shops in Hoan Kiem.

I’m part cynic, part Buddhist, and on any given day the tides of my world view may be high or low, optimistic or apathetic. On that night my heart pained for the crouching elder, to the point where I stopped, knelt down beside her, and said with worry, “Grandmother, it’ll soon rain. It’ll soon rain!”

She looked up at me and replied, “Dạ, vâng ạ”. “Yes sir,” with deference.

Those words were crushing. She wasn’t supposed to respond like that. I was the child; she was to be shown respect, not me.

But that’s how it goes, sometimes, and there’s no right or wrong inherent in how life for us all has unfolded here:

Downtown Saigon
Modern Day Downtown Saigon

There is no right or wrong about this picture. It’s the most difficult lesson I have had to learn since years ago first landing in Vietnam.

Author: Philip Arthur Moore

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