Monday night was one of those occasions that remind me of how special our work here at Blue Dragon really is.
Hung (pictured - in the red shirt) invited a few of us to celebrate his 17th birthday with him. Alongside Hung in the photo below are Giang, our Social Work coordinator; Vi, a volunteer who has been teaching Hung; and yours truly.
Being asked to join in this party was special for a few reasons.
Above all: this was Hung's first ever birthday party. He's never celebrated his 'special day' before; never had a cake and people singing "Happy birthday" for him.
Personally, I find some sorrow in that. I feel a bit guilty. I've known Hung for about 4 years - and I've never known his birthday.
But I've come to realise that Hung has never before told us about his birthday; he's never wanted us to celebrate with him. It's been his own secret, and only now does he want to share his birthday with others.
Hung's birthday was also special because of where he's come from.
All of the Blue Dragon kids have a powerful story; there's always pain and sadness. That's why they're with us. On a public forum such as this blog, though, I cannot always go into the details. For Hung, suffice to say that he's had a rocky ride, and it's just in the past few months that he's really started getting his life together.
He's working in one of Hanoi's best restaurants... he's living in our shelter again... he's studying at the centre after work... and I've never seen him with a more positive outlook on life.
After dinner (pizza!) as we headed out into the autumn night, Hung couldn't stop thanking us for taking him out to dinner. And yet, each of us felt that we should be thanking Hung for letting us join in his special day.