August 14, 2019

Learning about Empathy and Compassion

August 14, 2019

Ethics in Context is a particular class that I attended during the Co-Design Year at Fulbright University. With the mission of incubating a university environment that enhances students’ learning experiences, our faculty helped us answer the question: How to apply knowledge into practice outside the classroom.

In the Ethics in Context class, we were introduced to the influential eastern ethical values through Buddhism and Confucianism. They include the Buddhist theory of Selflessness, Confucius’ moral lessons about balancing relationships and many other meaningful lessons …

The class did not just teach these values in theory. The lecturer asked us to do a project called “Service Learning” (Learning from community service activities). This project required each student to spend at least 10 hours to carry out activities that serve the community’s interests.

We decided to choose Dalat as the place to carry out our project. With only one month of preparation, 16 students of the class must design a fully functional project, from drafting plans to budget proposals and logistics preparation. The trip lasted two days with activities including collecting trash at Suoi Vang lake and organizing a training on Emotional Intelligence for children at Luc Hoa Orphanage.

On departure day, the bus left Saigon at 6 pm and arrived in Da Lat at 2 am the next morning. The long trip did not douse the spirit and energy of the group.

From 8 am, we started collecting trash at Suoi Vang lake, which was being overloaded with wastes generated from tourism activities. We named this activity: The Challenge for Change. We were happy that some local people joined us. They were all dedicated to preserving the environment and the landscape of Da Lat.

Joining the local community activities, I learned how to take care of the environment and to promote environmental protection awareness within the community. We collected more than 30 garbage bags.

However, what we expected was not the amount of garbage we could collect but the effort to inspire people to engage in such meaningful activities, promoting environmental protection awareness of each citizen.

On the second day, we went to Luc Hoa orphanage. Our planned training session on Emotional Intelligence for the children here unexpectedly overlapped with another group’s activity.

But we took immediate action to arrange activities so that the two groups could join with fun. The unexpected situation was a new experience that helped us learn how to adapt and adjust the activities properly to achieve the common goal of supporting the children here.

Dr. Nguyen Nam was in charge of our Ethics in Context class. He participated in all activities and set an example for us about passion and positive attitude. His positive attitude spread and inspired us during the journey.

The trip consolidated the values of the Ethics in Context class. Buddhism focuses on empathy and compassion. Confucianism provides guidelines on how to perceive the world not just from our personal interests. Individual benefit is not the center of the community, but the community should be the center within each person.

“Service Learning” and the trip to Dalat are not “tests” to pass Ethics in Context class. We learned the lesson of gratitude and appreciation of what we have and realized how fortunate we were. I learned to be more careful and pay more attention to my words and actions so as not to hurt children.

I got lost in the beautiful view of Suoi Vang lake after a day of cleaning and was amazed by its beauty. This peaceful landscape reminded me that each person has to be responsible for nature and for themselves because it is us, human to make the environment worse.

Confucius taught his followers not to break the rules in their family, because once broken, even just a minor rule, other more important rules would eventually be broken.

I learned a lesson that each person must be responsible for his own actions and should refrain from interfering or breaking common rules of society.

The Da Lat trip was once of the most meaningful trip that I have taken. Learning to give back to our community, I believe I have also received invaluable lessons.

Le Ngoc Ky Duyen

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