One day I was working with my seven-year-old son Nate on math and asked him, “If I have three cookies and you have five, who has more?” Nate answered, “I do; I have two more than you.” I then asked, “What will you do with your two extra cookies?” He said, “Eat them.” That’s an option, I told him, but another option is to share with those who have less. I later explained to him that in life everyone will experience abundance and scarcity. It might be more or less money, time, speed, muscles, patience, math skills, cookies, and so on. This inequality gives everyone an opportunity to share.
I am originally from Vietnam. I came to America on a boat when I was two years old with my parents and eight siblings after the fall of Saigon in 1975. At the ages of 42, my parents started new lives with nothing but our family. As refugees, my parents had no choice but to work in factories to provide for our family. My mom worked at a chicken factory and my dad at a furniture factory, both barely making minimum wage. Since they had nine children to take care of, as a child I often had less than my peers: less clothing, less house, less car, and less money.
As the youngest, I often benefitted from my older siblings’ hard work. They got jobs as soon as they were old enough to help our family. My sisters Dawn and Yen made and bought clothes for me; my brother Binh paid for cheerleading camp. My sister Xuan and brother Quang took me to fun places like swimming pools, bowling alleys, miniature golf, and movies. Later I lived with my sister Huyen rent free for the four years I was in college. My community was also generous. When we first arrived in the U.S., an American couple sponsoring my family helped my parents by finding an apartment and jobs and becoming acclimated in America. During high school my friend Brandy gave me rides to ball games, and in college I received a full minority scholarship.
Now at age 44, I feel like I have more: more finances, more love, more yoga, more patience, and more kindness. It is my turn to give. When given the opportunity to open a yoga studio, I knew I wanted to make yoga available to all regardless of their financial situations. So I decided to charge less than the going rate: $45.00 per month rather than the usual $80.00 per month. I also knew many still would not be able to afford $45.00 a month, so for those people, I decided to offer yoga for free. And I also knew those who very possibly could not afford yoga are those who did not know about Be One Yoga Studio. So I came up with an idea: One for One. We will donate a class to a non-profit organization every time a client takes a class. This is a gift all the Be One Yoga teachers want to give our community and to ourselves. As a yogi friend once told me, “You can’t keep yoga for yourself unless you freely give it to others.”
Don’t get me wrong. I am still on the receiving end. My family, friends, kids’ school, and church help raise my children because I am very aware that “it takes a village.” My yoga family—Brandy, Jimmie, Helen, and Dave—help me run the yoga business because I know I can’t do it alone. They have been working hard teaching, blogging, organizing, and planning because they share my passion. I receive love, forgiveness, and kindness from my friends and family daily. I also realize it is as important to receive as it is to give. That is why we have decided to allow our clients who come for free an opportunity to give back to the studio by helping in any way that they can.
Throughout my life, I have had much help and now have the opportunity to give back. Some people think about paying back those who have injured them. Instead, I want to pay back my help, one for one, in hopes of leaving the world a better place.