Kim Phuc

Forgiveness and Exceptional

This is a guest post by Victoria Ellis. She's a student at Lesley University and is interning with me this semester. She's writing a guest blog post for my newsletter each week.  The power of being exceptional and being able to forgive is colossal.  The word exceptional is explained very well in the book “Love, Medicine, & Miracles” by Bernie S. Siegel, M.D.  He wrote an entire book of different cases of ‘exceptional patients’ that he treated who were able to heal themselves (according to my definition of healing in the previous post).   Dr. Siegel has noticed many trends or patterns in healing.  “Exceptional patients manifest the will to live in its most potent form” (Siegel 3).  The people who found meaning in their illness and were able to cope with it were able to truly heal.  The book is filled with examples of exceptional patients and I highly recommend reading it.  It is very moving.

Today I got the opportunity to see Kim Phuc speak.  She is the little girl in the photo below that blew the publics minds.  Kim used this photo as the platform for the rest of her life.  This act changed her life so much and leads her to help so many more people that have been affected by war, like her.  It has been about forty-one years since this picture was taken and she still does not forget the burning sensation of napalm on her skin.  This pain was the motivation for her to start The Kim Foundation International Healing Children of War.


This photo single handedly changed the way a lot of people viewed war and patriotism in America, not to mention what the bomb did to Kim and her family.  Napalm is similar to gasoline and is very flammable.  It is so wrong that American soldiers dropped four napalm bombs on Kim Phuc’s hometown in Vietnam and killed all of her relatives who are running along side her in the photo.  Kim suffered tremendously from this until she realized that she needed to forgive.  How could Kim ever begin to forgive?  The pain deep in her soul was so strong that it was taking over her life.  She needed to release it and that meant forgiving.

Kim is a prime example of an exceptional patient.  Although she was a burn victim, not suffering from an illness like cancer, like most in Dr. Siegel’s book, she is still an exceptional patient.  That little girl in the picture manifested her destiny in order to live in the most potent form and I think Dr. Siegel would agree with me.  She was able to determine what she needed to do to be HEALED and she made it happen.  Kim is a very inspiring woman.

Siegel, Bernie S. Love, Medicine & Miracles: Lessons Learned about Self-healing from a Surgeon's Experience with Exceptional Patients. New York: HarperPerennial, 1990. Print.


Meeting Kim Phuc

Last week, I was doing that thing that happens on facebook. That thing where I click and click and click and somehow end up down a rabbit hole of websites, not sure how I ended up there. Somehow, I ended up reading an article about how Kim Phuc was speaking at a nearby private school in Concord, MA. I had no idea who Kim Phuc was. But I knew this picture:



She's the girl in the center of the photo. I thought it would be an incredible experience to hear her story in person. The article about her said her talk was about forgiveness, which is certainly connected to being a healthy, happy person. I wanted to hear how this woman battled internal and external lifelong pain to become someone who could forgive even the most devastating experience.

I immediately sent an email to the contact person and got a reply immediately back. It said, "there's a waiting list. And it's at 9am." I wrote back, "if it's meant to be, it will be. Please put me down and I look forward to hearing back from you. And please add one more, because I'd like to bring my intern along."

Two hours later, I got the thumbs-up because two people had given up their seats. My intern, Victoria, and I were lined up to sit and hear from a well-known historial figure!

If you aren't familiar with Kim's story, watch this video below (warning: this video contains graphic images)

This morning, Victoria and I arrived very early and secured ourselves seats right up front. When Kim entered the room, I was tempted to try to have a picture taken with her, but it wasn't the right time. We were told there would be a chance to talk to her and have a picture later.

Kim took the stage and there wasn't a sound in the room. As the video shows, Kim's village was bombed by napalm during the Vietnam War. Her voice, soft and clear, told us of her tragedy and her road to forgiveness. She shared some video footage like I posted above. She said boiling water reaches about 100ºC. Napalm burns up to 800-1200°C.  She said when the solider's poured the water on her back, in attempts to help her, she fainted from the pain as the napalm penetrated deeper into her muscles.

She credited God with saving her life several times over the course of about 14 operations over her lifetime. She found God and a deep faith in Christianity after fleeing Vietnam and Cuba and defecting to Canada. I was really touched when she spoke about her insecurity about her body, and her fear that her scarred body would make her dreams of finding someone who loved her possible. Kim smiled when she said, "but I found him. And have two boys now."

The entire room was silent for the duration of Kim's talk, which I found moving, profoundly honest and inspiring. I especially appreciated her honesty about the process of forgiveness. It's not an overnight process, she said. No matter your experience, whether it was planes bombing your village or something completely unrelated, it can take many, many years to replace negativity, blame, shame or guilt with honesty, love, compassion and joy--and forgiveness.

I loved those sentences from her talk more than anything else she said.

After her talk, Kim welcomed guests for book signing. Her books sold out, and I only had my card on me, so she signed that, "with two kisses" she said.

photo (5)

photo (5)

I thanked her for sharing her story, especially the truth about forgiveness, and she graciously honored our request to take a picture together. It was humbling and really fun to stand beside a famous figure from history but she was also just a person, like me. I met Winnie Mandela 13 years ago, and I had that same feeling of awe and connection to our connectedness as human beings.

I am so glad I reached out immediately when I saw the article posted online. I gave up any attachment to being there, but it came through and I was given the chance to see Kim speak and meet her in person. I was given the chance to listening to a person so well-known and important to our world history share her story of pain, transformation and forgiveness and I am so grateful.

Please visit her site: The Kim Foundation and consider donating your time, energy and money to her cause of helping children all around the world.