A Pocketful of Hope

Nurses General Nursing


In the far reaches of Vietnam, we had just finished up patient screening. In fact, we had just finished securing our entire surgery schedule that would begin the next day in the city of Can Tho. Our team was exhausted having screened over 200 patients and we could not feasibly fit another child on this schedule and yet, much to our own heartbreak, there were many little ones we had to turn away. The pain that follows that is something our team has learned not to talk about. It's just best to focus on the few that we can help.

Those who had made our list will be given new hope and a chance to start a new life with the repair of their shame-filled facial disfigurements that have imprisoned them for a life of seclusion. You see, in places far away from our world facial disfigurements label a person as stupid, dumb, demon possessed, unable to learn; thus, society is afraid to interact with them. In many cases, children are drowned at birth for a simple cleft lip. I have rescued discarded children from garbage dumps as a desperate family tried to hide their shame.

But, there he stood at our door. He was a small barefooted boy about 10-years old out of breath having just run into our building as fast as his little legs could carry him. His pants were too big for his small frame and tied to his tiny waist with a piece of rope. They were all wet and his little brown chest was sunburned and bare. There he stood just taking in the scene of all of us packing-up our equipment. His slanted eyes slowly grew as wide as the moon. We could only see his eyes for his face was covered, a familiar scene. A scarf was tied around his lower face to cover his own personal shame. I could not bear to watch what would unfold. In my heart, I knew we just couldn't turn another one away.

Especially, not this one.

It was as if he knew what the answer was before we even knelt down before his question. But regardless of what hadn't been said yet, his hand went directly deep down into his dirty, wet front pocket. My eyes welled up with tears as he pulled out a tattered but neatly folded damp piece of paper.

It was this pocketful of hope that had sustained this little one for over a year.

We unfolded the note carefully as it was very fragile. Upon opening one of the corners we recognized a very faded symbol-instantly. It was the Operation Smile 'seal'---- the promise that we would come back again. It was our promise to him a year ago that when we came again---we would do his surgery.

Now, to make a promise like that on a human level is so risky. Logistics, government issues, and many things can interfere with the keeping of that promise. In fact, the place we set up for this mission was a 2-day journey down the river from where we were last year. He had to have come by canoe, bike, and foot to reach us. To this day, I don't know how he succeeded to find us other than the sustaining power of that pocket of hope and a God of mercy and compassion.

I sat and wondered what the past 10 years of his little life had been like. I think we would all agree-tough. But, I feel it safe to say that this past year had to be his best year of all.

With a pocketful of hope he could live a year with enduring one last mocking; one last ridicule; one last jeer; one last disappointment; one last betrayal; one last time being ignored; one last time being unacceptable; one last day of being friendless; one last time having doors shut in his tiny face; one last time eating with food coming through his nose; one last disgrace; one last time being knocked down; one last time doing slave-duty; one last abandonment; one last day of emotional pain and one last day of gut-wrenching shame and loneliness---because he had a hope of something new.

He held a small pocketful of hope.

I think of that little boy often. When I am tired and feel like I can't endure another nursing heartbreak or exhausting shift--I pat my front pocket and know that one single word of hope you can offer can overcome a million impossibilities.

Thank you for that reminder.

I needed that today :happy:

@zoeyherman, thanks for sharing this story...it almost brought me to tears. I am a first-generation Vietnamese American and everyday I feel so fortunate to have been born here with such great medical care, nutrition, and educational opportunities.

I am also very interested in what you do. Can you please tell me how you became a flight nurse and how you started working with Operation Smile? I am starting my BSN this year and would like to follow a similar path. Thank you!

Thank u for reading! I need it everyday. Its so easy not to believe in miracles sometimes. That little boy impacted me greatly!


I am thrilled ur interested! I have had the best career in nursing and if ur interested I would love to,share! I started out in PICU for 15 yrs but my heart was flying so I then got experience in the ER and CVICU and SICU with adult patients. I applied for flight after having pediatrics for 15 yrs and then adults. Our company requires 3 years of critical care work before they will even look at ur application. After that, we have a 6 month training platform and u have to pass the CFRN test .. We do OB, Peds and adults and get traumas, strokes, deliveries, pediatrics ....anything including rescue. We need additional certs in ACLS, PALS, NRP, BLS, ITLS, TNS, and PTLS.

Its a lot....but worth it! I work 24 he shifts which allows me to travel.

Operation smile will take u with 2 year pediatric or OR or PACU experience. I am a clinical coordinator for operation smile because I have been volunteering since 1999. I started working in the RR and advanced to be the coordinator. I love love love love operation smile and have worked everywhere in the world multiple times/yr, If u have PALS , peds experience or OR or RR--pacu experience u can submit an application and be on ur way with us! I encourage u! It will change ur life!

Great reminder of why we do what we do! Thank you!

+ Add a Comment