A friend of mine, a young Mongolian woman, asked to meet me today, and over coffee told me a tale at once so sad, and yet so easily fixable, I felt I should share it with all of you. This friend (who I’m not naming to respect her privacy) is in her last year at university here in UB. Her father is a construction laborer and her mother cleans at a school, both in a northern province. If this woman finishes college, she will be the first in her family ever to have done so.
As you might imagine, this family has little money. Because this woman’s mother is technically employed by the State, the government pays 55% of her tuition. Even so, the other 45% is hard to scrape up.
This summer and fall, both parents experienced physical problems that necessitated coming to UB hospitals. I’m not sure about the mother’s condition (better now), but the father is suffering from some dissipation of the fluid between a couple lower vertebrae that causes the bones to rub together in a chronically painful way. He’s just in his mid-40’s but cannot currently work.
This woman told me she was so worried about her father, not just about his condition and the pain, but paying for treatment. At the beginning of her semester, her parents sent her money for the balance of her tuition. Unbeknownst to them, she used the bulk of it to pay for her father’s hospital bills. She fibbed to her family, saying the money came from selling some stuff she bought in China this summer. In reality, she has had to leave school since mid-October and work part-time to make up the shortfall.
I urged her to be honest with her family, but she was so afraid of the shame it would bring to them. Everyone is looking forward to the proud day when their eldest daughter graduates from university. They all think she’s still in school now, and she’s torn up about it.
My friend could meet me because her English is so good. She was one of the best in her high school class, and dreams of returning to a countryside school where quality teachers are in short supply. I know her to be such a good, sincere person, a dedicated student with no bad habits and a real wish to make her parents happy and proud. She takes these setbacks so hard and told me of ongoing stomach aches and sleepless nights from the stress.
And the kicker? She didn’t ask me for money, didn’t even hint. That was not her purpose. She just asked me if I could teach her meditation so she could calm her mind and sleep! I told her yes, I could, but really she mostly had to deal with her practical problems. Then maybe they’d be off her mind and sleep would come.
Anyway, I’m writing all this to give you some backstory to my proposal that we collectively do a small good deed this holiday season. In the course of our talk, I casually asked how much she owed her school. She said it was 300,000 tugrig. Know how much that is? About $250 (the exchange rate is very favorable to the dollar just now). Can you imagine? So. I want to give her this money, but I’m in a bind. I can only use funds for the purpose they’re donated for; I can’t use MBRP funds for this. But last week I did a little job grading a paper and made $50, so I’ll chip that in first. Who will join me? If we raise a little extra, good. I’ll tell her to use it for her parents’ medical bills, and I know she will scrupulously do only that. She’s that kind of girl.
Let’s help my friend be the first in her family to earn a college degree, prevent her early ulcer, and let her get a good night’s rest. Whaddya say? The button below will take you right to PayPal. If there’s a place to say what your donation is for, just write “graduation gift” and we’ll keep careful track.
UPDATE I: OK, I'm hereby outing DODR readers as a bunch of compassionate, generous saps! You really touched a frozen monk's heart this morning. We needed about $200, and in less than 24 hours, a dozen of you offered gifts totalling $435! No need to donate more; maybe just offer to the charity of your choice. My friend will be speechless, and I promise later, if I'm here, to post pictures from her graduation ceremony. Big love to all of you!
UPDATE II: Oh, y'all. If I could have captured the look on my friend's face this afternoon when she understood what we were giving her. You remember in I Love Lucy when Ricky Ricardo's emotions would unleash a flood of Spanish? The same thing happened here, except in Mongolian (and, um, not exasperated). With eyes brimming with joyful tears of relief and gratitude, she kept repeating, "I don't know what to say. I don't know what to do!"
I explained to her about Christmas as a traditional giving season, and how so many of you spontaneously pitched in, but then I fixed her with a stern look and said, "Now, I'm giving you this on one condition." She eyed me uncertainly. "What's that?" "You must invite me to your graduation ceremony in June," I replied, at which point we both broke into laughter and she said, "Of course!"
She needed 300,000 tugrig, but when I went to the exchange place, the dollar was at an all-time high. She was the beneficiary: we gave her 600,000 tugrig. She understands the balance is to help with her parents' medical expenses. The parents who now don't need to know what a sacrifice she made out of love and concern for them.
After we finished our tea, she said, "Please tell everyone on your website that I really, really appreciate this." Outside, she asked, "Is this the right way to say: 'I'm walking on air'?" I laughingly assured her that it was and then I asked where she was going. She firmly replied, "Right to the library to study."
It really is the most marvelous feeling to do something unexpected that truly helps another, isn't it?
Just before typing this, I got a message from her on my phone that read, verbatim: "THANK YOU FOR HELP and BELIEVE IN ME!" We do, my friend, we do.