Saturday, April 14, 2018

Alfred Hitchcock, Tippi Hedren, And Your Nails

In three months, I'm in Vietnam for the 8th time. This is about someone who made a huge impact in two different countries. It's from July 5, 2014.

Four days from right now, I'm in the air aboard a Singapore Airlines jet for my fourth trip to Can Tho, Vietnam. I'm about 2/3rds done with my checklist, a checklist that grows every day. This trip is requiring more preparation than my others as I'm going to be working with the English teachers in the church on their conversational skills. (They reach out to the community by offering free English classes to youngsters from age five through high school.) I'm not an ESL teacher so this is a stretch for me. Over the past two weeks, I've reached out to former students of mine from Asia, asking how they best learned English. Their answers have fascinated me as I've never had to learn a second language with my academic fate hanging in the balance. I've learned how much I have to learn.

In 1930, a little girl was born in Minnesota to first generation Americans. Her name was Nathalie Hedren but her dad called her Tippi. After high school, she did some acting and modeling but her career was going absolutely nowhere. But one fateful day in 1961, legendary director Alfred Hitchcock saw her in a diet drink commercial run on  NBC's The Today Show. Something caught Hitchcock's eye and he called Tippi in for a screen test which she assumed was for his weekly television show. It wasn't- he cast her in the lead role of his new suspense thriller movie, The Birds, a role he envisioned at first for Grace Kelly. If you know American film history, you know The Birds was a huge and even timeless hit, propelling the previously unknown Hedren into fame, stardom, and wealth. 

Besides talent and beauty, Hedren was also blessed with a heart for the less fortunate. She began visiting a Vietnamese refugee camp in 1975 in California, befriending the women whose lives and very existence had been uprooted by the fall of Saigon. They were in a tough place- they didn't want public assistance so she tried to come up with a business in which they could get involved. Tippi found the young ladies were fascinated by the elegance of her fingernails and had an idea. She began bringing in her own manicurist who started with a core group of twenty ladies, teaching them how to do nails. She also persuaded a local beauty school to continue teaching the refugee women. The fingernail service was a perfect fit- you did not need to be fluent in English, it did not require a huge investment of money to get started, and if you worked hard, you could succeed. The training completed, the twenty entered the American work force, and of course, the rest is history. By 2011, nail salons had grown to a value of $6 BILLION in the US and 40% of the businesses were owned by Vietnamese-Americans. No wonder that Tippi Hedren is called The Godmother of the Vietnamese Nail Industry. Not only that, I picked up this tidbit by watching a clip. In the mid 1970's, the average price of a manicure was $60, out of the reach of most America women. With inflation, what would that be now, maybe $150? But with the introduction of the Vietnamese salons into the market, manicures became affordable to the masses. And it all goes back to one person.

If I had time, I could preach a sermon about the applications of Tippi Hedren to the Kingdom of Heaven. Well, in all honesty, I already have, to our Chinese church several years ago. You know, the Parable of the Mustard Seed? How the smallest seed grew into the tree that you know what- BIRDS- came to rest in its branches? But the seed has to be planted, doesn't it? We sell ourselves short in the making a difference department. You remember what Paul said in Ephesians 3:20-21, don't you?
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen
I need to quote those verses everyday when I walk out the door each morning because by limiting myself, I'm limiting God. 

I spent this afternoon with two lovely young ladies, Kim Ngo and Thuy Nguyen, both former WCS students and both from Vietnam. In the opening paragraph, I mentioned working on conversational skills with English teachers in Can Tho and contacting former students, asking for help in mastering English. As a result, Thuy and Kim asked me to Houston's Chinatown for lunch (Malaysian food at the Banana Leaf which was excellent) and for dessert, shaved ice and fruit. (You may not believe this but I ate a huge bowl of sliced avocados with chocolate syrup on a bed of ice all by myself- AMAZING!) As we talked, I told them about what I was writing tonight, a story they had never heard. When I finished, Kim told me something I didn't know. Her brother-in-law, married to her older sister, owns several businesses in Wichita, Kansas. Guess what kind of businesses? Somewhere, Tippi Hedren is smiling.

Applicable quote of the day, # 1:
"When you love someone, you treat them well."
Tippi Hedren

Applicable quote of the day, # 2:
"I'm considered the patron saint of manicurists."
Tippi Hedren

Applicable quote of the day, # 3:
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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