5. LUCKY, The Backstory: The Last Act

My goal as a volunteer had been to remain with the program until the first participants, still the core of the group, graduated from high school. And they all did graduate, among them several with honors. So I had expected to leave at the end of that summer, which I’d already  announced. But a more recent volunteer, a native of Singapore, who was a wonderful musician, suggested the creation of an original one-act Christmas musical. The kids had presented short plays at Christmas in the church sanctuary, mostly a Southeast Asian version of Dickens’Christmas Carol with a small cast. Volunteers had also engaged them in other art forms: the creation of a large mural depicting our program and, earlier on, a liturgical dance group (in photo).

Our last artistic project, however, was designed to involve every one of our youth. And although some weren’t certain they wanted to participate, in the end, every active member did. Sadly, I have no photographs, but the performance, held in the church sanctuary, drew an excellent audience and proved to be a hit with both audience and cast members.

That was my last official day.

Not long after I retired from the program, I wrote the short story LUCKY, tried to publish it but didn’t, until last year when it won the Doris Betts Literary Award sponsored by the North Carolina Writers Network and published in the 2019 on-line version of the NORTH CAROLINA LITERARY REVIEW. LUCKY tells the story of a Cambodian woman taking a short walk through a blighted American neighborhood and the terrifying memories this engenders of events in Cambodia at the close of the Vietnam War.

For background on this, the 1984 film The Killing Fields and the book on which it was based, written by war journalists Dith Pran and Sydney Schanberg, are excellent.

I end these posts with much appreciation to the many volunteers who brought food and helped with other supplies and the hands-on volunteers who worked with our programs over the years, especially Don and Nancy Schoeps, Koh and George Herlong, Meredith and Ivan Ong, Joshua Manning, Eric Dvorak and our summer staff assistant Christopher Henson.