A tune of love amongst urban fuss

(No.3, Vol.7,Jun-Jul 2017 Vietnam Heritage Magazine)


Mr Le Huy Cam and performers from the Trung Vuong Elementary School at a his show

One Dalat man
combines artistry
with charity to
serve the people

Mr Le Huy Cam donating money to Mrs Hai

It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say he is hope for souls that suffer. Perhaps even calling him an incarnation of a Bodhisattva in a comment on his Facebook wall is not a blasphemy.
To me, he is a special man. When I told him so, and he just smiled, ‘Please don’t...it makes me feel uncomfortable.’
He is Le Huy Cam, a music teacher, composer, musician, and painter. He is a true artist with simple and sincere manners that command even more admiration.
My heart churns and clogs reading his notes, ‘After a few raining days, Dalat turns foggy, cold and windy this evening. Wandering aimlessly on the streets, I saw two tiny souls shriveling in a corner. I asked, “Where are you from?” “Dam Ron”. “Why come here?” “It’s the hunger. It’s even hungrier at home.” “Are you cold?” “Yes”. What can I say? Only gave them a little something. Uncle’s arms are not long enough to embrace the whole world. The thin voices with cute minority accent still tinkling in my ears, “Tank you vely match...”’
‘Uncle’s arms are not long enough to embrace the whole world,’ but is that so? The deepest depths of that big heart have enough warmth for orphaned fates, enough sympathy for all the misery and sufferings of life, to ‘choose a joy each day,’ as it’s sang in a song of Trinh Cong Son.
He does it all silently. In the fussy life where everyone seeks material satisfaction or vain fame, he just wants to be a tiny hyphen, a messenger who brings some good news.
Unlike noisy charity organizations with extra agendas that occupy news headlines, he has gathered a few artists, along with children of Dalat, making a volunteer group to find and help those in need without any intermediary.
I asked him, ‘Doing charity work in your own way like this, aren’t you afraid that it would be misinterpreted?’ He smiled unassumingly, ‘I give cash to the elderly, because they need it on rainy days. Since I don’t know how to drive a motorbike, I walk from house to house whenever I have time. I can’t carry much. Nobody does it this way, so people may say this and that. But I am sure the friends who do this with me have no question or objection, because they know me. That’s all I need.’
People often see him in the streets talking affectionately with elderly peddlers of lottery tickets and handing them gifts and small amounts of cash. They see him with sick ones and those whom life has let down to instill them hope. They see him tossing and turning on his artistic passions. They see him dedicating his whole self as a music teacher. And that is unmistakably him.
In his simple house in a modest neighborhood hidden in a tiny alley near downtown, Le Huy Cam the Dalat citizen exhausts and refills his heart and mind with musical notes and paintbrushes.
Born in 1960, having gone through the good and bad, he chose loneliness for a companion, as he puts it. Writing, composing and painting are the ways he keeps his diary of thoughts and feelings. In those tunes and brush strokes, Dalat is a dreamy, tender place. The slow, soft pace of life on the hill slopes day by day has built up his Dalat character.
Dalat, the realm of dreams and love. His love is also simple, melted in the nature and the people of the land. He shared, ‘Everything comes naturally, without intention or premeditation. The music and paintings seem to have been there, deep down inside me and subconsciously ingrains themselves into my work. With a surge of emotions, the tunes and images come out of nothingness so vividly that all I have to do is put them down on paper...’
Perhaps his empathy and compassion, simple and quiet, toward people also came the same way. ‘I am a Buddhist. Among the twelve teachings of Bodhisattva (who is a Buddha, but doesn’t return to heaven, but instead remains in the world to relieve human sufferings,) one is about being charitable. That’s beyond my reach, because I too earn every day’s meals. Now, when friends entrust me, as a long time Da Lat city dweller, with helping those who are deeper in troubles than I am, how can I decline? Having connected to people I never knew before, I found them nice and lovely. Orphaned kids treat me like a father, a teacher. The elderly peddling lottery tickets take me for a son. As a lonely man, I lacked all that, so this charity work is like an exchange of affection.’ A bit of affection, given away to receive back. I felt a hidden sigh.
Having studied at Lasan Tech, a first-tier school of Da Lat before 1975, he didn’t become an engineer as his parents wished. ‘It was the profession that chose me, not the other way,’ he said figuratively about his ‘career’. From a technical university student he became a musician, then a music teacher. ‘As I teach the kids music, they teach me serenity and love.’ he discovered. Having finished the directing courses at the School of Drama and Cinematography, he organized the ‘Love’ music gala night to raise money to support lonely elders during New Year’s Eves.
‘Charity work is not supposed to be a fashion for wealthy crowds to cruise around and spray their leftovers on the poor. To the needy, the amount of money you give is not as important as the warmth of attention and care that makes them feel they are not forgotten in this cold world.’
There is grace in everything. The tunes of ‘love’ he wrote in the city slums sink so deep, so softly. They touch so many hearts, and awaken them to give him a hand to light up human existence.
Le Huy Cam, the multitalented artist with a compassionate heart, goes on everyday with his mission of conveying the message of hope by voluntary charity work, quiet, like an underground current. And I believe this tireless underground current will never be exhausted.


Text by Hong Thuy Tien and phtos by MPK
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