Nguyen: Everything has value

Phuong Nguyen, Columnist

A while ago, my parents used to compare me to other people, unintentionally: “Look at them,” they would say. “Those kids are the same age as you, getting into Harvard, making money and entering the world.” If other people could do it, why can’t I? They want what’s best for me, of course, but I always felt useless. It was hard not to compare myself to people that looked more successful than me.

While in Hue and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, I used to sit under the bridge in a park, away from the crowd. This park was a place with the most undesired things. Trash here, trash there, trash everywhere. Made me feel like trash! However, from the bottom of the bridge, I learned that there are still people who search for this trash. It dawned on me that even in the most undesirable places, I could still find value. Everything has its own worth.

In Vietnam, people can collect trash to sell to the recycle industry. The industry pays accordingly to how much the trash weighs. It is a job that is very common in Vietnam. People either go around the city and shout “Trash!” or quietly pick any trash or potential recyclables that they see. A kilogram of trash is 0.25 cents, which can buy one breakfast in Vietnam. Therefore, to these people, trash or recycling items are their lives. They search for things that people throw away and make a living out of it. The well-off people don’t see the value of trash; however the hard-working and the poor need trash to earn their living. The most undesirable place for one person could be the most hopeful place for another. Although this may not be success to them, this is their livelihood, and ironically society needs these people. While they make their livelihood off of trash and recyclables, the city is kept clean. Even though they are not as appealing as diamonds or shiny office buildings, trash cans could also bring happiness to whoever needs them.

People, in general, tend to focus on the life bustling above the bridge rather than below it. At the foot of the bridge, people hardly notice that there are messy lines and numbers on the bridge wall. But these lines are not just random numbers and stupid lines. They are used to measure the heights of tide, water levels or floods. If there weren’t those lines, the environmentalists and government would have struggled to take data and report or predict the level of water in rainy and drought seasons. Such small, unnoticeable lines also play an important role.

There are people in the world who are accomplishing what may seem like more important contributions, such as solving war crises or making huge strides in the medical industry. However, the impact that we make, no matter how small, is just as important. You are the one who helps make your community better.

Phuong Nguyen is a first-year student who loves Asian food and Harry Potter.