A heart-warming story of a poor couple who returned a lost handbag with billions of Vietnamese dong inside has been inspiring Vietnam’s netizens throughout the first week of the Lunar New Year festival, whhich ended last week.
Nguyen Van Long and his family live in a small house located within a close-knit community in Ward 1, Cao Lanh City, which is the capital of the Mekong Delta’s Dong Thap Province.
For the three decades he has lived in Cao Lanh, Long has spent his mornings fishing in the nearby Dinh Trung River, hoping to reel enough fish for his family.
While fishing was a steadfast part of Long’s daily routine, finding a billion Vietnamese dong was not. (VND1 billion = US$43,400)
That changed when he saw a woman drop her handbag near the river while he was fishing.
Unsure of what to do, Long picked up the bag and took it home.
“I asked him whose handbag it was," Doan Thi Tam Em, Long’s wife, recollected.
"He said he had picked it up on the way home and if no one came to ask for it, he would report it to authorities.”
Long tried to contact the woman who dropped the bag, but his try was in vain.
“I heard the bag drop, so I ran over and picked it up," Long explained.
"I tried to yell for the woman, but she was driving too fast.
“A short while later, her younger brother came to my house to ask about the handbag.
"I asked him to describe the handbag and all the items inside, then I gave it back to him after verifying what he said.”
Verifying what was in the bag was actually the first time Long realized its worth during the ordeal.
“We hadn’t even opened the bag to take a look, but did guess there might be something valuable inside," he recounted.
"It didn’t really matter though because we had no intention of keeping any of it for ourselves.
"We’re poor but we’re not greedy.”
Perhaps being naturally inclined to return the bag is why the couple was caught off guard when local authorities later awarded them a certificate for the good deed.
A happy smile
Long and his wife have spent decades earned their living by filling large black bags with plastic waste and paper scraps they find on the streets.
The couple washes and sorts the garbage on their mezzanine, where it stays for two to three months until they have gathered enough to sell for VND1-1.5 million ($43-65).
That money, coupled with the VND2 million ($87) they earn by working at a nearby coffee shop, is barely enough to make ends meet.
Still, the couple says they are happy.
After all, they have healthy, well-behaved children who have supported them over the years with a flat-screen TV, a refrigerator, and even the house they live in.
Long said although he has always lived in genuine hardship, he feels fortunate enough to have well-mannered children.
“I feel extremely satisfied with my life,” Em said.
Aside from gifts from their children, Long and Em’s house is filled with certificates of merit he has earned during the fifteen years he served in a local defense militia force.
His son also currently serves in the militia, and the two proudly claim they have never missed a shift.
|Nguyen Van Long and his wife, Doan Thi Tam Em, sort their daily haul of recyclables on the mezzanine of their house. Photo: Ngoc Tai / Tuoi Tre|
Putting themselves in others’ shoes
Long’s house is currently covered in wedding decorations for his son’s marriage, which was meant to take place on March 30, 2020, but was canceled because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
He has yet to organize the wedding party for his son out of fear that the event might lead to an outbreak.
“I had prepared 15 party tables and sent out the invitations," he told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
"The restaurant wanted to charge us for the cancelation, but I convinced them to sympathize with us.
“I shared the vegetables that the restaurant had bought for the party with our neighbors when I visited to tell them about the cancelation."
Long’s son, a worker in Ho Chi Minh City, has since rescheduled the wedding, but scrapped it once again amid fears of the virus resurgence.