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Today is 23 December 2011; nuns in Dieu Tram Pagoda went with Nun Nhu Minh to Quang Tri in a relief trip. The place we are going to is Hai Lang district, Quang Tri Province.

The whole group departs at 7.20 a.m. and arrives at 10.10 a.m. Thanks to earlier preparations, the farmers have all been present at the pagoda of Trung Don village. It is pouring down, but the road to the pagoda is not very muddy thanks to a layer of white sand. The chief monk of this pagoda is Monk Huyen Tri, who is still at a young age but is very devoted and has a compassion for people. He welcomes us very nicely. We learn that this is the lowest place in the province, and the local people have lost to inundation totally 50 hectares of rice seeds. Therefore, our Vietnamese country fellows in the US and Canada have given donations to buy rice seeds for the families of whom crops have been destroyed in  the recent prolonged rain and flood. This rice seed donation program, which is mobilized and funded by Eyes of Compassion Relief Organization, gives rice seeds to 300 families, 20 kilograms of seeds each. The rice-carrying truck has arrived earlier, and rice has been unloaded by the people by the time we come. Everybody wears raincoats; all men and women, young and old, are smiling brightly, thus easing the cold weather of winter. Sacks of rice seeds are placed in front of the pagoda. Local people are standing in the yard, listening to the local representative, who is reading the thank-you message to the nuns for bringing assistance from the kind hearts to the people in need. Nun Nhu Minh then shares understanding for difficulties of the people, telling that these presents are from the kind hearts of the people in Eyes of Compassion Relief Organization (Understanding and Compassion in Canada). She even recites poems as gifts to the people. She says that because she hopes that local people will have a good harvest, she has recited the name of Avalokitesvara Buddha the moment she came to the plants factory of Hue. When people asked her why she bought so many rice seeds, she said: Ah, my fields are numerous, stretching everywhere (smiling). The local compatriots listened to her reciting poems with great attention. The other nuns are also happy, and the local farmers are even happier. We stand near the old and young local women, and we hear them say that this sack of rice seeds is going to get them much better. Every good son and good daughter of Quang Tri is happily bringing their coupon to receive rice seeds. After receiving, they put the sack on a bicycle or a motorbike and bring home. Some people are even as careful as to cover a raincoat over the rice sack to protect it from the rain. Some old men and women come to receive the rice sack, but because they themselves cannot carry it home, they call their offsprings to bring home.  Standing there and seeing how happy our compatriots are, we too feel happy. Perhaps if everybody is happy like us, our crop will be a very good harvest. Like the lyrics of the song “Flowers still blossom in our country roads”:

My hands sow the seeds of new rice
Your feet bring in new sunshines
To remote mountains, to flowery streets
To remove completely the sufferings inside

After the farmers have come home, we say goodbye to the chief monk and leave. He thanks us and our fellow people from U.S. and Canada on behalf of the local people.

Leaving Hai Lang, the whole group then goes to Dong Ha and visits some families in great difficulties. Totally 8 families are given with 200,000 vnd each. When handing the money for the old women and men, Nun Nhu Minh says: I do not have much, only just enough for you to buy some rice. Seeing some elderly people with humpback come to take the money, she says: please be careful so as not to stumble, otherwise this 200,000 vnd certainly will not be worth. One last family cannot come because they are victims of agent orange, and Nun herself comes, and we follow her. When approaching the gate, we see a banner that reads “the ground-breaking ceremony for the compassion house”. This family has an old couple and three children affected with agent orange. The father is slightly affected while the three children are more seriously affected, of whom one has just passed away, the other two are mobility-disabled. The couple has 4 children totally, among whom only his last child, a daughter, is normal. This year, she is in her 8th grade. Nun Nhu Minh gives this family 1 million vnd and 3 packets of biscuits. The old man tries to hold his tears back when he receives the money. Nun says that the money is to buy rice for the family. His 35-year-old son has to use wheelchair. His legs and arms are contracted, but he can still say thank you. The 26-year-old daughter looks as small as a 10-year-old girl. She does not use wheelchair but her legs are also contracted and weak, and she has to lean to others to walk. She is intelligent and used to study well, but had to drop because her younger sister could not bring her on her back to and from school every day. The mother is also deeply touched. Looking into her eyes, I know that tears are going to fall.

We leave Dong Ha, Quang Tri for home. Everybody feels that one is luckier than the family for still having strong legs that can walk and bright eyes that can see. The atmosphere in the van seems to sink down. I happen to think of these two folk sentences:

Oh gourd, love the pumpkin
Though of different species, you share the same trellis.

Dieu Tram nun pagoda, 26 December 2011


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