On a pleasantly warm August evening in 2016, my husband and I took our one year- old grandson in his stroller for a walk in a nearby park.   A dog got loose from its owner, raced past me, his leash wrapping  around my leg, knocking me to the ground, leaving me unconscious and bleeding. After a night in the hospital, my scalp stitched back together,  I was grateful to have come through it as well as I did.  But I was left with a fear of dogs.   I “therapized” myself, searching for wisdom that might help me overcome this. 

              “The fears we don’t face become our limits,” was one bit of direction I leaned on. 

              “You have to remember fear is not real.  It is a product of the thoughts you create.  Don’t misunderstand me.  Danger is very real but fear is a choice,” was another quote I found.  There is some truth in that quote.   But I posit that fear is not always a choice.

               I think of the story my husband tells of an experience in Vietnam when he was ordered to take a particular village.  He deemed it a very poor decision on his superior’s part, that he would almost certainly lose a lot of men with nothing accomplished by their efforts.  He initially thought he would act just as soon as he got over his fear.  But he quickly came to the conclusion that he was going to have to use his fear to propel him to carry out the order.  As one quote I discovered noted, “Sometimes the fear won’t go away, so you’ll have to do it afraid.”

              One of the most helpful pieces of wisdom I found was from Dawn Markova:

              “I will not die an unlived life.  I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire.  I choose to inhabit my days, to allow living to open me, to make me more accessible; to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise.  I choose to risk my significance, to live so that which came to me as seed, goes to the next as blossom, and that which came to me as blossom, goes on as fruit.”

              Occasionally, I still feel wary when I see a dog.  But I choose to not let fear disrupt my peace.  We do well when we refuse to acquiesce to fear and instead embrace life.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  One last quote:  “What is needed, rather than running away or controlling or suppressing or any other resistance, is understanding fear; that means watch it, learn about it, come directly into contact with it.  We are to learn about fear, not how to escape from it.”  Jiddu Krishnamurti

Meet Biet

Biet was a winsome eight year old in South Vietnam in 1968.   She was one of a group of children my husband Terry encountered selling cokes to soldiers to earn some money.  Biet was especially engaging, with bright eyes and smile, and she always sold the most. She would call “Honcho!” to Terry as soon as she saw him coming.  Naturally, he garnered quite an entourage.

The children liked to follow him back to his camp.  Terry permitted them to stay awhile and would share any extra rations with them.  But he would eventually tell them “Di di” meaning go on.  But one day Biet, was adamant in her refusal to go, saying “No di di, honcho.”  Terry, as he describes it, was unwilling to get into a struggle with an eight year old girl in front of his men.  She was allowed  to stay and from then on she was permitted to come and go as she pleased. 

In the beginning of their friendship, her English was not very good.  But after several weeks of tutoring she was capable of carrying on a meaningful conversation in English.  She expressed much anxiety for Terry’s safety.  Out of that concern she gave him two Buddhist icons to wear around his neck for “protection.”  He wore those religious symbols around his neck for the remainder of his time in Vietnam.

The last day before Terry was moved to a new assignment, he arranged to go with Biet to see her mother.  He gave her mother money to buy Biet an “ao dai” (a traditional Vietnamese female dress) to wear to school.  He hoped to emphasize to her mother his hope that Biet would attend school.  That was his last time to see Biet. In his memoir, he writes he did not fully appreciate how much he would miss this spunky little girl.  One can imagine that loss was mutual.

Woodrow Wilson once said “Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.”

I am also reminded of the quote from The Little Prince: “The tender friendships one gives up, on parting, leave their bite on the heart, but also a curious feeling of a treasure somewhere buried.”

Such enduring friendship is indeed a treasure.  Just as that relationship anchored a soldier and a little child in war-torn Vietnam, our deep connections support our wellbeing when we travel difficult roads in uncertain times.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.

          Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  Vietnamese Snack, “Rice Paper Rolls” (Goi Cuong): fill rice paper wraps  with pork, shrimp or tofu; add ingredients like lettuce, vermicelli noodles, bean sprouts, mint garnish or other vegetables. Dip in peanut sauce.