Your correspondents arrived at the Thuy Xuan incense village at noon in mid-June in the scorching heat of the central region of Vietnam.
Located at No. 69 Huyen Tran Cong Chua Street, Thuy Xuan Ward, Hue City is a small shop selling incense and souvenirs, named Me Tuyet.
Me means mother or is used to address old ladies or those related to royalty in central Vietnamese dialects.
The shop owner is Ton Nu Anh Tuyet, 72, whom netizens call ‘fairy’ or ‘the living Buddha.’
While hearing her story, your correspondents hugged her and said, “Me Tuyet is indeed a Bodhisattva.”
“Come here to avoid the sun,” she said, thinking that the reporters were tourists.
As they introduced themselves as Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper journalists wishing to know more about her good-deed story, Tuyet immediately said, “Well, I’m a bit weird, there’s nothing to tell.”
After a while of chatting and encouraging her to open up to inspire others, Tuyet finally agreed, starting her story, “Looking at sad eyes, I can’t stand it.”
|Paintings and photographs that visitors painted and took of Me Tuyet. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre
The sad eyes belonged to her relatives diagnosed with cancer.
A decade ago, she saw panic in her younger brother’s eyes when he was diagnosed with colon cancer.
Her sister-in-law walked back and forth and stared into the void.
The breaking news rendered them impotent. Everything was precarious at that time.
For Tuyet, that was a desperate look, like everything was about to fall apart.
She was deeply pained by the news, and that disease kept haunting her, even in her sleep.
Since that day, her dearest wish has been helping patients with cancer.
Eight years ago, when she visited Hue Central Hospital to offer gifts to needy patients and passed by an area designated for children with cancer, the kids with chemotherapy-related hair loss looked at her.
“Their eyes spoke of indescribable sorrow, with little vitality,” she recalled.
“My heart ached when looking at these eyes,”
Then she described the eyes of Thanh Truc, a little girl with corneal cancer who was under medical treatment at the Hue Central Hospital.
The girl with crystal clear eyes had to undergo an operation.
Once seeing Tuyet come to the hospital, the girl immediately rushed out to meet and hold Tuyet’s legs happily.
|Me Tuyet poses for a photo with a group of visitors from Hanoi. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre
Tuyet asked a doctor about the little girl’s health condition and was so glad to know that Truc was almost fine.
But three months later, Truc struggled to open her eyes to look at Tuyet. Her hands were too weak to hold her gift.
“I loved her so much, yet I could do nothing but cry,” Tuyet recounted.
“At the time, I prayed to God for her to continue her life and wished I could sacrifice my life for her survival chance.
“But not everything always goes the way we want.”
The following day, Truc’s father announced she passed away, Tuyet recalled.
She shared another story about Long Nhat, a boy suffering from bone cancer in central Quang Binh Province.
Due to the disease, he had to have his legs gradually amputated to the thighs.
When the pain temporarily faded away, Nhat received gifts from Tuyet and requested prosthetic legs once he recovered.
Tuyet learned about the metastasis of the tumor in his body, but when looking at his eyes, she broke her rule and promised to give him prosthetic legs.
“I promised myself that I would never lie to sick people, but I lied to him. How can I tell him the truth?” Tuyet shared.
Let’s give whenever you can
Me Tuyet, an incense vendor aged 72 and weighing only 40 kilograms, provides support and gifts for around 500 patients each time.
|Me Tuyet, who gives support to child patients with cancer. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre
Each gift combo comprises some necessities and VND100,000 (US$4.3) in cash.
Those who are extremely disadvantaged will receive much more support from her.
The money set aside for each of her charity trips is around VND60 million ($2,600), a big sum for an elderly person like her.
However, she said she was blessed by God, so she has always managed to arrange enough money to do the good deeds.
There was a time when she raised enough funds for one charity trip in just 15 days.
The money to serve charity purposes comes from her sales of incense sticks. She also receives donations from many parts of Vietnam.
Tuyet is a very careful person. She always notes down details of all generous donors.
When the reporters were chatting to Tuyet in her shop, many groups of visitors who heard her story also came to visit.
Among the visitors, Quynh and Van, a newly-wed couple, decided to travel to Hue as part of their honeymoon, citing Me Tuyet as the reason.
As shared by Quynh, she was moved after watching many videos circulating on social media about Me Tuyet, so she and her husband visited and bought some gifts at her shop, so that she could have more to give to cancer patients.
|Duong, a visitor from Hanoi, represents her friends to donate a sum of money to Me Tuyet, so that Tuyet can help more child patients. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre
Aside from Quynh and Van, Duong and her friends traveled to Hue from Hanoi to visit Me Tuyet.
Duong also heard about Me Tuyet on social media.
During their talk, Tuyet advised Duong and her friends to give whenever they can.
“In our life, if one day unexpected things happen to us, remember not to dwell on the negatives or do wrong things that could hurt yourself and your loved ones,” Tuyet said.
“It is a blessing to stay healthy and be able to do what you love.”
Each of the stories Tuyet shared is a life lesson.
Before leaving, the visitors hugged her and gave her envelopes withthe “Support patients. Thank you, Me Tuyet!” message written on the outside.