Last week, I was doing that thing that happens on facebook. That thing where I click and click and click and somehow end up down a rabbit hole of websites, not sure how I ended up there. Somehow, I ended up reading an article about how Kim Phuc was speaking at a nearby private school in Concord, MA. I had no idea who Kim Phuc was. But I knew this picture:
She's the girl in the center of the photo. I thought it would be an incredible experience to hear her story in person. The article about her said her talk was about forgiveness, which is certainly connected to being a healthy, happy person. I wanted to hear how this woman battled internal and external lifelong pain to become someone who could forgive even the most devastating experience.
I immediately sent an email to the contact person and got a reply immediately back. It said, "there's a waiting list. And it's at 9am." I wrote back, "if it's meant to be, it will be. Please put me down and I look forward to hearing back from you. And please add one more, because I'd like to bring my intern along."
Two hours later, I got the thumbs-up because two people had given up their seats. My intern, Victoria, and I were lined up to sit and hear from a well-known historial figure!
If you aren't familiar with Kim's story, watch this video below (warning: this video contains graphic images)
This morning, Victoria and I arrived very early and secured ourselves seats right up front. When Kim entered the room, I was tempted to try to have a picture taken with her, but it wasn't the right time. We were told there would be a chance to talk to her and have a picture later.
Kim took the stage and there wasn't a sound in the room. As the video shows, Kim's village was bombed by napalm during the Vietnam War. Her voice, soft and clear, told us of her tragedy and her road to forgiveness. She shared some video footage like I posted above. She said boiling water reaches about 100ºC. Napalm burns up to 800-1200°C. She said when the solider's poured the water on her back, in attempts to help her, she fainted from the pain as the napalm penetrated deeper into her muscles.
She credited God with saving her life several times over the course of about 14 operations over her lifetime. She found God and a deep faith in Christianity after fleeing Vietnam and Cuba and defecting to Canada. I was really touched when she spoke about her insecurity about her body, and her fear that her scarred body would make her dreams of finding someone who loved her possible. Kim smiled when she said, "but I found him. And have two boys now."
The entire room was silent for the duration of Kim's talk, which I found moving, profoundly honest and inspiring. I especially appreciated her honesty about the process of forgiveness. It's not an overnight process, she said. No matter your experience, whether it was planes bombing your village or something completely unrelated, it can take many, many years to replace negativity, blame, shame or guilt with honesty, love, compassion and joy--and forgiveness.
I loved those sentences from her talk more than anything else she said.
After her talk, Kim welcomed guests for book signing. Her books sold out, and I only had my card on me, so she signed that, "with two kisses" she said.
I thanked her for sharing her story, especially the truth about forgiveness, and she graciously honored our request to take a picture together. It was humbling and really fun to stand beside a famous figure from history but she was also just a person, like me. I met Winnie Mandela 13 years ago, and I had that same feeling of awe and connection to our connectedness as human beings.
I am so glad I reached out immediately when I saw the article posted online. I gave up any attachment to being there, but it came through and I was given the chance to see Kim speak and meet her in person. I was given the chance to listening to a person so well-known and important to our world history share her story of pain, transformation and forgiveness and I am so grateful.
Please visit her site: The Kim Foundation and consider donating your time, energy and money to her cause of helping children all around the world.