How a Vietnamese Man on a Bus Inspired Me

While entering the bus, I feel the sweat dripping down my back.

It’s a boiling day in Ho Chi Minh.

Once I sit down I feel a cold breeze blowing against my forehead.

Airconditioning. Thank god.

My body temperature stabilizes and I open my laptop.

The guy in front of me looks at it.

Then he smiles, without showing his teeth.

His eyes look happy.

After I show him that I’m writing, his facial expression does not change.

I ask him if he can read English, knowing that silence is an answer too.

No response.

Just the smile. No teeth. Happy eyes.

He looks at me one more time.

Then, he turns around.

Unfulfilled curiosity

I’m left with so many questions.

Where is he going?

Does he have a wife, kids?

What does he think about the Vietnamese society?

What is his main struggle at the moment?

What makes him smile?

I will never find the answers to these questions.

My Vietnamese vocabulary is limited to a few words.

Still, I find these short interactions beautiful.

I don’t know what is going on for him, but his face expresses contentment.

He doesn’t look worried.

He doesn’t seem stressed.

His doesn’t appear to be concerned.

It makes me think about all things I stress over in the Netherlands.

“My train is delayed, will I still be in time for the meeting?”

“My new project role is not what I hoped for.”

“Two hours before a presentation my laptop breaks. How can I access the crucial documents?”

All these worries look so trivial in this moment.

Many Vietnamese people have problems of a different severity.

I don’t know if this is the case for the man on the bus.

But I have the feeling that he is an optimistic person.

For some reason, he reminds me of one of the key points of the book: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

This Vietnamese man does not open his mouth, but I do hear Stephen Covey speaking:

“You cannot influence what happens to you. You can only decide how to respond.”

Complete contentment

Half an hour later, my bus stop is approaching.

Bye bye, air conditioning.

Hello, oven.

Before I exit, I look over my shoulder and see the same man sitting there.

He looks at me, showing the same expression of complete contentment.

Just the smile. No teeth. Happy eyes.