Never judge a book by its cover – as cliche as it may seem, this line applies to this narrative that shows genuine generosity – one of the many touching Vietnam stories. Born to a penurious family, Pham Hong Minh only had 150,000 – 200,000 VND to thinly spread for his living expenses. He has worked multiple jobs to support his studies and after he graduated, he applied at a machine maintenance company. However, due to his clumsy nature, he didn’t last long.
According to Mr Minh, he worked for different kinds of jobs – traded shoes and food and came one day when followed his friend to Thu Duc wholesale market to sell, he learned the art of selling and trading through a series of both success and failure. The story of the ‘guy’ selling vegetables and his generous love, ready to give free vegetables to poor people
At first glance, anyone would be taken aback considering Mr Minh’s appearance due to numerous tattoos sprawled over his body. However, for staying at the same spot for several years, he has become a familiar sight to people who are regular to the intersection area of Bon Nuoc, Bien Hoa Industrial Park (Dong Nai).
There have been several instances wherein needy workers and some students would drop by to ask for vegetables to bring home. And since they don’t have the money to pay for the vegetables, they are given for free by Mr Minh.
Mr Minh’s day starts as early as 3 A.M in the morning, he arrives at the wholesale market to select for fresh greens to sell. Once done, he goes back to his stall to arrange the freshly bought veggies and prepare them for his buyers – this has been his daily routine.
And for 11 years, this has been his primary source of income supporting his wife and their 3 children.
At around 2 in the afternoon, he had already cleared his stall. With several industrial workers who pass by to buy some vegetables, Mr Minh adds a handful of onions and cilantro for each customer.
He had his fair experience with vices before, he got into gambling and drinking, plus he went on excessive spending. However, with the help of his wife and children, he finally overcame these vices.
He recalls all of the hardships he has gone through as a student, having dealt with financial constraints and hunger, he thought about opening a free place that will help students and people in general that are in need. Thus, seven years ago his vegetable stall was established.
And albeit the stall is quite small, it was never a hindrance to help so many people who were in need.
During the height of the epidemic, his daughter was hospitalized which led him to look after her. This has inspired him to add some signs in his stall, one notable sign says “Do not wear a mask, sell twice as expensive, Wear an open nose mask, do not add cilantro”.
He says, we deal with different kinds of people each day and yet, there are those who don’t wear any mask or they’ll just pull their mask down to the chin to speak. And so Mr Minh created a sign with the said line.
He never thought this would go viral through random people taking photos of it and uploaded it to different social media platforms.
There have also been instances wherein Mr Minh would rest and just leave a sign that says “you may help weigh and pay by yourself, the price is listed below. Thanks”.
Several people have asked him if he isn’t afraid to be taken advantage of while sleeping. Like some people might just come by, grab some veggies they like and leave without paying. He would simply laugh at this thought and say most people that buy vegetables from his stall are regular customers and they knew what Mr Minh is.
To him, if someone comes and steals his vegetables that only means they are poor or lack the means to pay for it. There have been several instances wherein people would come by the next day to pay or whenever they have the money to pay – whatever it is, Mr Minh remains unperturbed by this.
Many people have asked him if he is still doing well, knowing the effects of the pandemic in the economy. He says there are challenging days however for the whole month, the income has still been enough that he can still provide free vegetables to the people.
A lot of his regular customers would just drop by and pick up a bundle of vegetables and walk away knowing these vegetables are for free. Despite this, his wife is pleased with the outcome as Mr Minh can still save money and at the same time, make friends with people.
Due to the pandemic, many have lost their jobs and means of income. And for some of them, Mr Minh’s vegetable stall has been their refuge for food. It may not be worth a lot but it’s enough to bring joy to a less fortunate family.
There are several moving stories that surround Vietnam, and perhaps, around the world. If your heart has been moved by this story, try reading the story of a pharmacy worker who helps teach less fortunate children for free and even using his own resources to buy them the school supplies that they need.