It's kindness that will get us through

August 22, 2021 - 08:01

Generous people are in abundance, and they have even been getting in touch with local authorities to ensure those in need get help.


FOOD TO GO: Free lunch boxes with rice, peanuts, green beans, stewed fish and egg are ready to be picked up at 11am every day in Hà Nội. Photo courtesy of Hồng Nhung

by Nguyễn Mỹ Hà

Since early in Hà Nội’s lockdown, we have run information on 'Zero Đồng' kitchens that cook fresh food every day for medical workers in city hospitals -- people tirelessly helping others in need, showing the true spirit of the Vietnamese people.

However, over the past few days there have been many stories of people making up pathetic tales to take advantage of people’s kindness, people who may have been struggling themselves but still took it on themselves to help others.

This was saddening but it will not prevent kindness from winning out. Generous types are still in abundance, and they have even been getting in touch with local authorities to ensure those in need get help.

It was a heart-warming news when the manager of a Zero Đồng kitchen had a special visitor. Sonya Firsova, a popular user of TikTok with more than 200,000 followers, made a video of her going to the kitchen to get a free meal. Others might have kept this quiet, but she was not too proud. She gave a thumbs up to the kitchen, while wishing Việt Nam well in its fight against coronavirus.

"I do not eat meat," Firsova said to someone in the kitchen, and was immediately handed some steamed white rice, vegetables, pickled eggplants and salted peanuts. 

Hồng Nhung, who manages the Zero Đồng Kitchen on Quang Trung Street in Hà Nội, cooks vegetarian food on the first and full moon every lunar month.

To meat lovers, Firsova’s meal seems frugal and modest. But a volunteer driver who usually hands out meals, Quyet Bui, posted his meal and it was exactly the same: salted peanuts, boiled vegetables and some fish sauce for dipping. This just goes to show that no matter where you stand, giving or receiving, we share more in common than you might think.

Giving or receiving, life often throws a challenge. You only can give away something that you have, or have been given. Kindness begets kindness. It is never in vain.

Hoài Sương Nguyễn has been actively connecting vegetable donors to cook in her kitchen, and she then ships the food boxes to medical workers in a hospital nearby. One of them posted a thank-you note to her with pictures of many delicious dishes the kitchen had made over the past few weeks. 

HELPING THE NEEDY: Baker Thu Trang makes baguettes to give to people sheltering under Chương Dương Bridge in Hà Nội. Photo courtesy of Thu Trang

Thu Trang, a baker, offered to give away several sourdough loaves last week, but found that many people were not used to having their bread a little sour and preferred crispy Vietnamese baguettes made into sandwiches. So, she changed accordingly. She now only bakes baguettes with a little help from her son to put in the fillings in, and then delivers them to migrant workers who have taken shelter under the Chương Dương Bridge since the lockdown started. 

"There are still many who need food here under the bridge," she wrote after a recent trip. 

FEEDING THE FRONT LINE: Sticky rice and pork are ready for medical staff at Đống Đa Testing Centre in Hà Nội. Photo courtesy of Hoài Sương Nguyễn   

This Sunday’s edition shall coincide with the full moon of the seventh lunar month of the year. Traditionally, Vietnamese pay homage to their parents with good food or lay a feast on the altar at this time. This custom spread to the north from the south where Vu lan, (paying tribute to one's parents) was more popular. 

In the North, this full moon used to be a time for the living to cook rice porridge, boiled sweet potatoes and roasted rice to mix with treacle and rice cakes. This was then offered to homeless wandering ghosts, who were believed to have died without family. It may just have been a superstition, and certainly today, helping those in genuine need makes more sense. 

Because, who knows, when a pandemic happens, things can quickly change. Even those who were previously successful can suddenly be in the most difficult of positions.

And people are not just helping each other out with food either. Hanoian vet Tung Dinh is lending a hand to make sure people’s pets are safe during the pandemic. He offers a free phone consultation if your dog or cat has a health, digestive or respiratory problem.

"For emergencies or surgeries, if the owners have been stuck in the city due to the pandemic, or lost your jobs, or if you are student or have low-income, I will help save your pets for free," he gallantly posted in a group recently. 

MAN'S BEST FRIEND: Veterinarian Tung Dinh offers help with people's pets during lockdown. Photo courtesy of Tung Dinh

However hard your life might be, if you have a box of food for a day and can share it with your beloved pet, then you are all set to overcome any challenge. Keep up the faith!  VNS 

Generous assistance

Hà nội - Giúp nhau mùa dịch (Hà Nội Pandemic Help) 

Tung Dinh

Veterinarian. Call 0968527285, or leave a message