by Hao Tran

… that I fail every day.  I am stealing this line from a recent movie “The Dig”, and that’s the line I still remember.  That’s the best line of all because it is so true.  It’s so assuring to know that I am not alone, and it is OK to admit failure, and it’s OK to live with it, and it’s OK to try to do better.

The fact is, or the truth is I am not sure if I have left any impact that has changed the world, a world remade as my friend David eloquently said it.  I think I did, and after sixty-six years of trying, I must have done some good and made a difference somewhere.

Many years ago, I was on one of my trips to Đồng Tháp province, the poorest place in the Mekong Delta, the place my father called the end of the earth.  It was the place where the landless and the displaced peasants went because there was no place else to go.  It was also the place where the cranes returned because everywhere else in the Delta had been destroyed or farmed to death with rice fields and shrimp farms.

I was with my friends from the International Crane Foundation and we spent weeks helping the villagers, if you call it that.  We did what we could to sample the soil, teach the kids water chemistry, help teachers with lab equipment.  We were the rich and environmentalism is the luxury of the rich.

One day I was walking around and I saw a small house, a hut, and woman with a toddler were looking at me.  The child was so small like a malnourished primate.  She was unwashed, almost naked with so little clothing.

I reached out and cleaned her face with a Kimwipes.

The mother looked at me with wet eyes.  “Strange man,” she said.