Le Ly Hayslip answers the question:

What is the nicest thing a non-family member has ever done for you?


My girlfriend, Kathy Greenwood, we were both about the same age back in 1976. I had seven foster children in my house, and I lived in Claremont and she was my neighbor. And so I just get laid off from a big company doing assembly line. It was called National Semiconductor; it's a big, big company. And so I'd been working there for a couple years and I'd been laid off, so I was looking for a housecleaning job for a break. And so I put the flyer over the door of my friend Kathy, and she came home from work and called me for an interview.

And so she asked me, what I've been doing, and I told her that I just got laid off from my big company and now I'm just looking for house cleaning because I need an income. And she said, ‘Oh, you don't have to do my house cleaning. You come and work for me in my company. She had a big company building computers. And so I just went in and I filled out an application, and then she hired me and I went to work for her. And she also gave me a big title — to be a supervisor because I have a good spirit and I am a hard worker so she liked that. So she gave me a big title as a supervisor so I just took it on and I just helped her.

At home, she had two children and I had three, and so I work with her in the daytime, I work at her company, but in the evening I also helped her out with children and babysitting. And one night she went out with her boyfriend and they come home and they had so much fun. Then she started to tell him about me. Who am I? I come from Vietnam and I have a story to tell and I have a book in mind that I wanted to write. And that man, it turned out to be Bill Gladstone. I don't know if you know of him, but Bill Gladstone was working for a big company in San Diego — a publishing house and he was an editor. And so he just listened to her talk and here I'm just watching dishes, cleaning up in her house, and I'm doing my thing. But I overheard her telling him about my life story growing up in Vietnam.

And so he come to me and he said, “Oh, I heard you have a story that you want to write.” I said, “Yeah, but I'm not a writer. I can't read or write English.” So he said, “Oh, I can help you with that.” Wow, he did. So he sent a young man to work with me to lay out an outline and work with me to create this book of my life. But then my husband passed away, so everything... we stop. But that was how my book and my life story started, from Kathy Greenwood, and she looked after me every which way that I go because I'm Vietnamese, what did I know? But she’s just like my older sister. [She helped me with] my book and my movie and she was on the board of my foundation and she was my advisor and my publicist, and she looked after me just like I'm her younger sister. And I’m very happy to be with her and we're still good friends since 1976. And every time we meet together, I tell people, I say, “Yeah, she’s my boss, I used to sleep in her house, babysit her children, work in her company, and all of that.” But I move around so much and she's still in the same house. She’s still in the same place and doing the same thing. So that is about Kathy Greenwood, my friend, and I just love her. My children love her and we still very much like sisters.

So 1985, I wanted to publish my book so bad. I had to pay to go to a 3-day weekend for a book conference in La Jolla, and I stayed overnight with my friend Kathy so that I can go to the workshop early. And one night, her and her boyfriend went out and I come home by myself. I sit in her house, right in the middle of her house. I cry so hard because I tried to sell my book or promote my book or get somebody interested in it, but nobody did, because the Vietnam war at that time, the story of Vietnamese or Viet Cong, or the story of another side of the enemy, nobody was interested in it. And so I come home, I don't know what to do, and I just get down on my knees and I pray and I cry, and then here she is, she walked in and she asked, “What are you doing?”

And I say, “I am praying. I just so much want to sell this book to the publisher.” And then she gets down on her knees and both we pray. We say a prayer and she said a prayer for me, and we both pray to get my book sold. And guess what happened? Next morning, somebody optioned my books. Then they introduced me to my agent, Sandra Dijkstra, in Del Mar, and she’s the one that’s been my agent ever since. So that is how Kathy Greenwood would look after me, and we both just prayed, just asked God to help us, and He did, and so here I am.

Explore Vietnam with author and humanitarian Le Ly Hayslip on the “Heaven and Earth Pilgrimage” from March 30 to April 13, 2020. Raised during a time of great conflict in her country, Le Ly has lived in the U.S. since 1970. She has made it her life’s mission to build bridges between the two countries and by rebuilding her motherland and ancestral village.

Le Ly will be joined by three people with a rich history rooted deep in the Vietnam War in the area of Danang. Kirk Kellerhals, Catherine Bauer-Steitz, and Mike Frailey were all orphaned as a result of the Vietnam War and were in the exact same orphanage in Danang at the exact same time. All three escaped Vietnam, were adopted into three separate homes in the United States at three different times, and miraculously reconnected in 2019.

Click here for more information on this 2-week tour.


Le Ly Hayslip is a humanitarian, philanthropist, and peacemaker. She has devoted herself to the children of Asia while building a bridge of peace between the United States and Vietnam over the last 20 years. Le Ly is a Vietnamese-American who grew up in a poor village near Da Nang, Vietnam during the war. She is the author of two autobiographical bestsellers: When Heaven and Earth Changed Places and Child of War, Woman of Peace, which were adapted for the film Heaven and Earth by Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone.

Le Ly survived the horrors and hardship of war in Vietnam, overcoming all odds and moving to the U.S. in 1970. In 1986, Le Ly returned to Vietnam and was stunned by the devastation, poverty, and diseases that was rampant in the aftermath of the war. Seeing an opportunity to make a difference, she founded Global Village Foundation, a nonprofit humanitarian organization that serves the developing communities of rural SE Asia, focusing primarily on education, encouraging literacy, and supporting local and regional arts and culture. Click here to make a donation.

An internationally recognized bridge-builder, Le Ly brings American groups back to Vietnam to help restore her motherland and open the dialogue between the two nations.

Catalyst is produced by The Shift Network to feature inspiring stories and provide information to help shift consciousness and take practical action. To receive Catalyst twice a month, sign up here.

This article appears in: 2020 Catalyst, Issue 1: Healthy, Happy Gut Summit