The Betel Nut Lady

By Hong Su-yang (洪素養)
Abridged and translated by Shawn Chang (張牧軒)
                                                Syharn Shen (沈思含)


The Betel Nut Lady

By Hong Su-yang (洪素養)
Abridged and translated by
Shawn Chang (張牧軒)
Syharn Shen (沈思含)

After her husband passed away, many people felt sympathy for Huang, including her father-in-law who applied for the government's financial assistance to help her and the kids. Yet, Huang refused help as she was healthy and able to work. (Photo by Hong Su-yang)

When Huang Mei-yu (黃美玉) was 31 years old, her husband suddenly died in a car accident, leaving her and three children behind. As the family wasn't well off before the accident, raising three kids on her own was very difficult.

In order to rear her children, Mei-yu toughened up, wiped away her tears, and began to look for a way to support her family. With the help from a lottery ticket vendor, she began to sell betel nuts for a living.

While Huang eventually started earning a living, her eldest son often hung out with the wrong sort of friends and got into troubles. This led to constant arguments between mother and son, and they slowly grew apart. Whenever helplessness overwhelmed Huang, she often cried alone or visited a temple, praying to deities to help with her problems.

Becoming a Tzu Chi volunteer has given Huang Mei-yu (front) a new direction in life, and she does all the work with great dedication. (Photo by Yang Qing-xian)

After selling betel nuts for some time, Huang was able to make a small fortune. As many people around her sought expensive brands and indulged in Mark Six lottery, she began to play the lottery, but ended losing large sums of money every time. She was so attached to gains and losses that she could hardly sleep well at night. After losing a huge amount of money, she knew she had to hit the brakes and decided to quit gambling altogether. Fortunately, she had already raised her children and still had a house to live in.

One day in 2002, Huang's eldest daughter, who was learning to become a hairdresser, brought a copy of Tzu Chi Monthly from a hair salon for her mother to read. As Huang read through the magazine, the words of Dharma Master Cheng Yen (證嚴上人) were like a wake-up call for her. "It's not by praying for blessings that we become blessed. Only by giving and doing good can we sow blessings and diminish misfortunes in life."

In 2004, Huang set up a recycling station near her home so she could collect recyclables from her neighbors. She would sort out the recyclables and keep the place clean and tidy. (Photo by Xu Shun-xing)

She realized that all her prayers asking deities for help were in vain, and soon quit making offerings to gods and praying for good fortune. Instead, she began to make charitable donations to help people in need and even called a local Tzu Chi office to become a hospital volunteer. She also decided to close her business of 18 years selling betel nuts, as she knew they were harmful to people's health and would do no good to anyone.

This was the beginning of a new chapter in Huang's life. Over the years since, Huang not only volunteered at the hospital, but also started doing recycling work and helped cook meals for other fellow volunteers and at events. In 2008, after becoming a certified Tzu Chi commissioner, she became a full-time volunteer and devoted herself completely to Tzu Chi's work.

No matter how busy she was, Huang would always take the time to read the Master's words in Tzu Chi Monthly, including the six years she served as a volunteer team leader. For her, the teachings served as an anchor in life and her worries would always go away after reading them.

Using natural and homemade ingredients, Huang (right) and her fellow volunteer make rice dumplings to raise funds for refugees from Ukraine. (Photo by Hong Su-yang)

As the days passed after becoming a Tzu Chi volunteer, Huang changed from a stern person who seldom laughed to one who often wears a smile on her face. She now gets along well with her family and enjoys a vegetarian dinner with them every evening. By giving of herself to serve and do good, she has not only found harmony in her family, and also joy in life.

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