Every now and then we run across someone who reminds us how blessed we are. Not only how blessed we are, but also how shamefully we take our blessings for granted. I’m speaking primarily about myself here, but I really think every person born in the United States has blessings to be thankful for if put into proper perspective.
Those of you who follow my blogs regularly will recall one I wrote last spring about the joys of getting a pedicure. It wasn’t a one-time thing. I’ve continued to go in every six weeks or so to get them.
Kim, the lady whom I always request, speaks broken English, so we rarely say much to each other. On my last visit a few days ago, however, I decided to try to break through that barrier. I don’t like seeing people as automatons who perform this or that service and then disappear until summoned once again. I wanted to get to know Kim as a person. Probably won’t ever know her well, but I wanted to go beyond just knowing her name and her prowess in giving pedicures.
The last time I tried asking her a personal question, I asked if she was Korean. I watch a lot of women’s professional golf tournaments, and Koreans have practically taken over the tour—an inordinate number of them named Kim. Turned out she’s not Korean, but Vietnamese. Due to the language barrier and her shyness, I let it drop there.
On this visit, I asked her if she’d been born in Vietnam. I assumed she had or her English would be better, but I wanted to know. She said yes. After a few minutes I asked her when she came over, which got a little more conversation going. She said she came over 17 years ago, when she was 25. I told her that made her the same age as my daughter.
She told me she had three kids and that her oldest was born in Vietnam. She and her husband came here to join his mother and pursue better opportunities than they had in their homeland.
At the time Kim was born, Vietnam was a pretty hot war zone. Ho Chi Minh’s Communists were trying to enslave the rest of the country, and the Viet Cong were marauding the jungles and villages raping and pillaging and generally conducting a reign of terror. To those of us old enough to remember but not actually deployed over there, the war was an unending series of reports in the newspapers and on television. To Kim and her family, it was daily life.
I don’t feel like I know this lady enough to ask details about what her life was like over there—either during the war or since. It would be interesting to know, but I’d feel like I was prying. She did talk some about her family and poverty.
Although she only has one brother and one sister, her mother was one of nine children, and most of them have six to ten children each. When they were lucky, there was enough food to eat. Much of the time there wasn’t.
I must confess: there’s never been a time in my life when I had to worry about not having food to eat. I’ve been poor. I’ve seen times I couldn’t pay my bills on time. But I always had family I could have gone to if I’d been without food. (Some would say I could go several weeks without needing it.) I doubt if you’ve ever actually starved because you couldn’t buy anything to eat. You might have to go to a homeless mission or food kitchen or get food stamps, but we don’t really know the kind of poverty Kim was talking about.
I don’t know how much money a person can make doing nails at Wal-Mart, but I doubt it would rival a corporate CEO. But Kim considers herself extremely blessed. She kept saying, “Vietnam poor. America not poor.” Then she’d give me her sweet smile.
Every morning of my life I thank God for my blessings. But I wonder how much I really appreciate them. Once in a while when a Kim touches my life I pull my own curtain back enough to get a glimpse of how blessed I truly am. I hope I make myself look back there more often and come to appreciate what I have—and what I don’t have to deal with—more fully.
David N. Walker is a Christian father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years as a health insurance agent. Most of that career was spent in Texas, but for a few years he traveled many other states. He started writing about 20 years ago, and has six unpublished novels to use as primers on how NOT to write fiction. Since his retirement from insurance a few years ago, he has devoted his time to helping Kristen Lamb start Warrior Writers’ Boot Camp and trying to learn to write a successful novel himself.