Walk Humbly With God


“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

My friend Michael Lautes wrote the piece below. I met Michael when he was a young kid on the streets; he is now a teacher and is married and teaches in Vietnam.  Michael reflects below on the economic situation where he lives as compared to our country.

In reading this piece I encourage you to give thanksgiving for the goodness in our country, but to remember that when we point a finger at someone else we are pointing four back at ourselves:

1. There are 300,000 people homeless in California;

2. In Seattle they now have an area downtown where people can camp and live;

3. 1 out of 4 people go to bed hungry in San Francisco; and so on.

We need to  become the power of one to change this situation–I hear little from our political candidates, and so it begins with us. So I invite you to read Michael’s article and remember we cover our problems up and they are increasing:

“Where do I begin? I continually see people posting about their ridiculous problems online and keep thinking to myself “really?” Let me start by saying I was not a privileged middle class kid, aside from being a white male. I grew up in a working class family who struggled to survive and later I was homeless and addicted to drugs, so I already had my ideas about how spoiled people in the USA are and how little they stop to think about anyone but themselves, but a year ago I moved to Vietnam to teach English and my eyes were opened even further.
I lived in Hanoi for a year and am currently living in Saigon and have now seen true poverty. Let me qualify the fact that Vietnam was not nor is a real socialist/communist society, but like most so called socialist countries is a totalitarian state where you cannot protest or even speak out against the govt without fear of being jailed. The USA is more socialist than Vietnam. Here there are no social safety-nets. If you lose your job, then it’s too bad for you. There is no unemployment, no job placement assistance, no food stamps, no housing aid, no welfare. If you find yourself homeless, you are given a home, in jail. If you beg for money to feed your family, again you go to jail. So although there are taxes here, they only go to pay govt employees. And you complain about your govt?
The average monthly wage is $150 and don’t think things are super cheap because the cost to live is still between $400- $600 per month to live in a half decent home. This means that large extended families live in one broken down home where they may or may not have hot water or a stove or any of the amenities we take for granted. You will often see the extremely hard working women of Vietnam with a small grill outside making food and using the water that comes from the tap which is unsafe to drink as it is not purified. That there in itself is something everyone takes for granted, clean water from the tap. There are rats everywhere and the stink in the poorer areas is enough to make you gag. Sounds great huh?
In the downtown areas it might seem like it’s a wealthy city as you see a gold Lamborghini drive by, however it is simply a huge disparity between classes. Drive 10 minutes from the city center and you will begin to find homes made from sheets of metal, children and adults defecating and urinating in the streets, and trash clogging the lakes and rivers. You see dirty faces of women and children in the downtown trying desperately to sell something to foreigners, young children who should be in school or playing. There are small children eating fire on the streets of Saigon to make money to give to their dad who is probably on drugs. There is of course a huge sex market as westerners flock to exploit Asian women because of some racist view of their subservience, so you see young girls crowded in bars wearing skimpy clothes hoping to turn a trick to make money often to bring to their family. The ones who aren’t prostitutes are trying desperately to find a western man to marry and help them escape this place. Such comfort and happiness.
The women in Vietnam usually are the workhorses. They work all day while taking care of the house and children while their husbands gamble on cock fights (often they are also on heroin and their women work to support that habit as well). The daughters also are made to do whatever work the mother cannot do because she has to work so hard, so these young girls do not have much of a childhood and once they are married they are treated like dogs too often. The men here laugh about being “king” and how women mean nothing. It is so deep seeded in their society that women are worthless even the women ask you “how many sons do you have?” not how many children, how many sons. Must be great to be a woman here, huh?
There is no safety here. No OSHA or anything to protect anyone nor is their a real police force to protect you as the police are a joke and everyone knows it. The police don’t really enforce laws, they simply stop people to take bribes. The rules of the road don’t matter as people just do what they want and drive the wrong way down one ways, run red lights; turn right from the left hand lane, etc. etc. There are wrecks all the time and here you get in less trouble if you kill someone when driving as opposed to them surviving and you having to pay the hospital bills, so often people if they hit someone they will back up and run them over again to make sure they’re dead. The fine for this is only a couple thousand dollars. Bus drivers can kill one person before losing their jobs. Those damn rules and laws you complain about, well here’s what it’s like without ‘em.
There is an overall lack of value for human life because of the awful poverty here like you can never understand. Luckily, the class separation is going to get even worse thanks to the TPP which will exploit these people even more. So next time you want to complain about your first world problems, please shut up and instead think about how you can help someone less fortunate outside your selfish little world, think about how you can make the world a better place for someone other than yourself for once in your life!!” Michael Lautes

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