Friday, March 29, 2013

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster 
--One Art, Elizabeth Bishop

 Now is no time to think of
what you do not have.
Think of what you can do
with what there is
--Ernest Hemingway

Ranger and I were dining in a Central Florida Vietnamese restaurant this past week and were the recipients of some thought unbidden but valuable for all of us.

Over the years, we have chatted with the Vietnamese workers there, and one man who served in the Vietnamese Army and worked with U.S. Special Forces has been especially warm.  On this recent trip he brought us tea and a small dessert which we had not ordered, simply out of kindness.  Though it was humble, it was a grand gesture which said "we are family".

Notably, this was a bonding gesture not often seen in Ranger's neck of the woods, even among fellow long-time resident Anglos. Though Ranger has lived in his county over two decades and long ago left Cleveland, he is usually the outsider and has not often been the recipient of such bonhomie. Southerners often demonstrate a scarcity mentality (perhaps born of the Civil War and its aftermath?), and will only offer up pies and such upon someone's death or divorce, the latter is usually a gesture signalling an intent to move on the newly disburdened (a pecan pie awash in KARO syrup is a sure symbol.)

The restaurant worker shared that his father had worked in medicine, and sometimes given free medical care to those who could not afford to pay.  He shared other stories, all of which which demonstrated that the good we do comes back to help us. He said somberly, in making his point, "It is good to smile, and to be happy. Anger is no good for body." He continued in his thinking that sadness manifests in bodily maladies.

This man who had lost family members to the Communist regime, who himself went through years in "re-education" camps, was here to tell us, the only wholesome way forward is with happiness and generosity in spirit and deed. (The New York Times featured a piece this week on the same idea, from a more self-serving point of view -- "Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead".)

A good man bringing a vitally simple message.

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