Last week, I had the opportunity of a lifetime when I met the Venerable Thich Minh Thanh, a Buddhist monk from Vietnam. Thanks to one of my professors, Huong Nguyen, who is from Vietnam herself, my fellow social work students and I had the incredible experience of getting to hear him speak.
While I recognize that this may not be thrilling to everyone, it was something I would think most in Sampson County have not experienced. This gentleman was not just a monk in Vietnam, he was the leader of one of the oldest Buddhist Temples there, dating back to the 7th Century. He had come to talk about how Buddhists help people with mental health problems. I, for one, was amazed he had even wanted to come to the United States. I guess my professor is pretty persuasive.
As you can probably expect, I was pretty intimidated. I didn’t have the slightest clue how to approach him, even to say hello. First of all, he didn’t speak English. Secondly, I didn’t know if the American way of saying hello was acceptable. Luckily for me, I sat next to my social work colleague Erin Armstrong who helped to make me a little bit more comfortable. Erin didn’t seem to have any problem with approaching Minh Thanh. She even talked to him for a few minutes afterwards using a translator.
Then after hearing him speak, Erin and I walked back to her car. She was taking me over to my car, since mine was on the other end of campus. As we hiked over to Bull Street Garage, she showed me a bracelet that Minh Thanh had given her. I was so jealous. She got a bracelet from this gentleman because she didn’t act afraid. She also showed genuine interest in what he was saying. Now, I also paid attention to him speak, but I didn’t make the extra effort to talk to him afterwards. As a result, she was one of maybe two people who got a bracelet that day. How many people can say that they have a bracelet from a Buddhist monk? Erin Armstrong can answer this question yes. I can only say, “No, I don’t have one.”
This experience taught me to stop letting my fears prevent me from getting to know different people. Of course, not everyone is going to hand out bracelets anytime you show interest in them, but it never hurts to just take a few seconds and listen to what they have to say.
Katie Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.