Saigon lady serves up smile & forgiveness

You never know when Fate will offer a blessing in disguise.

Saw an Asian woman handling the checkout at a nearby Target store and joked with her about a gift I was getting for my son’s birthday three months from today. It was a holiday box with no writing on it, nothing to suggest it was from Xmas.

I told the cashier to open the small 4-by-4-inch wooden container. Music “erupted,” from inside. A female, whose voice was full of “gusto,”  was singing that rollicking old Isley Brothers song, “You make me wanna ‘SHOUT!’

The woman smiled, but did not make eye contact. “C’mon, honey, let’s dance,” I said, slowly rocking back and forth, noticing she was getting into the rhythm, a little more animated. I observed that her front teeth were very tiny, almost like a child’s, and I could not tell her age. That triggered a memory that I couldn’t quite place. Taking a chance, I held up a Xmas mug I got for 75 percent off, another one of those items with no clear holiday markings on it, and I told her it was for my Buddhist service on Sunday.

She lit up! “Are you Buddhist?” she asked. “Well, I am going to the Center in Philadelphia, Tibetan Buddhist,” I replied, not wanting to go into details of my first steps along this path. (See Buddhist Center of Philadelphia.) “I’m Buddhist,” she said. “Where do you go, what Temple?” I asked, noticing that I was seeing her as more of a kin, rather than someone different from me, from a foreign culture.

I could not understand what she said next. Did not want to hold up the line. But I asked where she was from, thinking perhaps China.

Vietnam,” she said, looking me in the eye for the first time. “Where,” I asked almost involuntarily, wondering simultaneously if a PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) flashback was soon to come up. It has in the past.

“Saigon,” she said.

Saigon, and not Ho Chi Minh City as the Southeast Asian government now calls its international city. I thanked her. Put the palms of my hands to my chest, and bowed. And felt like a brother who had just chatted with sister as I drove home, brushing away tears of thanks that no thoughts of war cropped up on this Journey for forgiveness.

12 comments on “Saigon lady serves up smile & forgiveness

  1. […] And, JhanaJian ain’t even Asian. Would you believe a person with the name of JhanaJian was actually of northern European descent? Now, I ask you, take a good look at the mug shot, particularly at a post like Saigon lady serves up smile & forgiveness. […]


  2. sparrow says:

    Ahh. . .wonderful story. . .thanks for sharing this one. . .


  3. Snædís says:

    Such a beautiful post michael j.

    Its healing powers go far beyond the actual scene in the Target store; it has made its way right into my heart, making peace with whatever I have been fighting there…


  4. and best of all I am sure you made her day also 🙂 a good moment so well told


  5. Shadowplay says:

    Michael, this was so sweet – and you described it so well. What a lovely snap shot in time. That you took the time to connect is such a beautiful thing.

    I love those kinds of moments!

    (and sorry for not commenting as often as I’d like- with work and trying hard to be a good parent to our four year old, it’s tough finding time to blog and visit friends. hang in there and never fear – I’ll be back, promise!)


    • contoveros says:

      These kind of moments happen more and more when you try to live in the moment. I see some 4-yr-old got hold of many of your precious moments. I’d love to see your little one transposed onto one of the pieces of artwork you display at your Blog.

      Now, you’re talking about a real snapshot!

      michael j


  6. JhanaJian says:

    That’s a beautiful story, michael. I am always touched by the “down-to-earth humanness” of your posts. It’s great that you finally found a way to connect with the cashier. It obviously meant a lot to both you and her to discover a kindred spirit, especially under those circumstances — with her being Vietnamese. And I understand your Journey for forgiveness too, or at least I think I understand what you mean. But you know, nothing is all black and white — and we all need forgiveness.

    By the way, Michael, how do you get the ‘Rate This’ thing that is on your posts?


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