Saigon is a bustling town, but not particularly scenic. Its a commercial city, with business and traffic in good measure, but short on photo opportunities. Among its attractions is a leftover from the French: The Church of Notre Dame. I walk over there to catch the evening light.
There’s a kid pushing a vending cart. It takes a lot of effort because this kid doesn’t have a straight bone in his body. Curved spine, curved feet, curved arms, curved legs, curved face. No idea how he got to be like that, but life has served him an unlucky path.
Despite his misfortune, he is not down. He could be begging on a street corner, or hidden away in some institution by people who “care” for him. But he’s not. He’s got his cart full of goodies and he’s working it.
I am humbled by both his circumstance and determination, and if there’s the least chance I need something from his cart, I’ll buy it. “Gimme a bottle of water and a couple packs of tissue.”
He bags it up, makes change, and then in his best English says, “Thank you sir.”
“Thank you, buddy.”
The double thank-you, a sure sign that both parties are better off than they started. A sure sign of voluntary exchange, of people helping people. The double thank-you is a feature of the free-market, something never heard in the DMV, IRS, or welfare office.
The warped vendor positions himself outside the Notre Dame cathedral, ready to serve all who need. There are no takers.
The outgoing mass-goers turn their noses up, apparently righteous enough already. All glory given to God, none left for the earthly bound.
Selfie taking narcissists view the curvy businessman as a nuisance, an obstacle to their vanity. Selfie sticks held aloft and pointed beyond.
The kid wakes up every morning, eager to serve his fellow man, thinking “what do they need? What can I put in my cart that will improve there lives?” The kid is a saint, a hero, a businessman. But the market for his goods pales in comparison to the market for ego gratification. Its a hole in the human soul, and it won’t fit on his cart.
There is something wrong with this picture. Something very wrong indeed.