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.
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What a great reminder to count our blessings and put life in perspective. I am a worrier – the kind of person who freaks out if the car makes a funny noise because I know there’s not enough in the bank to pay for repairs. Like you, I’ve had times where I’ve struggled – by our standards, but have never known what it is like to truly not be able to find a meal or a roof. We really do have much to give thanks for.
When we’re surrounded by abundance, it’s easy to get caught up in believing we don’t have everything we need to make us happy. But it’s not the things we have that make us happy. And, when we step outside our narrow worlds, we realize how much we really do have. Thanks for sharing!
Yes we do, Sonia, and it’s a lot more than just monetary. You and other LLC members, as well as all my tweeps and blog followers are a large part of my blessings.
I’ve met many from other countries who have been through a horror we will never understand. I thank God every day for my blessed life.
Thanks for your comment, DM. We are truly blessed.
I too go to a pedicure goddess from Vietnam – her name is Lori. All the girls at the salon are so happy to be here.
When they go home to Vietnam, they don’t go out a lot as they are worried for their safety, plus they must be on guard against the street thieves.
They’ve told me stories about how hopeless it is there when you are poor – even if you work hard, your academic records can be assigned to someone else with the money to pay for them. It was very, very illuminating to speak with them.
Americans have many, many blessings to be thankful for, even in these hard times.
Thanks, Jenny. Experiences with people like this not only enlighten us but also enrich our lives.
Very nice blog, David. I am so glad you shared a bit about Kim and your efforts to get to know her despite the language barrier. Thinking of her life experience does point out our many blessings … and help to keep perspective on our problems. I really like the way you make such efforts to get to know many people you meet who work in service jobs.
Thanks, Sis. People like Kim enrich our lives as well as teaching us gratitude.
I really like this post. Like all immigrants, we and our parents before us came here for a better way of life. I came across a similar, yet ironic experience that caused me to stop and reflect how blessed I am. It wasn’t with a manicurist though. Instead, it was the “American” movie “Courageous.” After watching it four times, I stopped and thought of how lucky I was to have been raised in America; not because it is not poor, but because it has the freedoms and opportunities that allow us to develop into good people. Thanks again for sharing this. It’s thought provoking and inspiring. That’s why I follow your blog:)
David, I enjoyed your article about Kim. I hope you can get to know her better in the future. I’m sure she could tell you some interesting things about Vietnam and when she lived there. I hope and pray that she is happy here. Love, Jane
Thanks, Jane. I hope I do, too.
Yes, its easy to forget we live in the highest standard of living in the world and start complaining about everything. Meeting people who’ve come from Kim’s type of background can be very humbling and help put all that we have in perspective.
Only trouble is, Nigel, she’s even harder to understand than you Brits. LOL
David, I’m so pleased I read this post. It’s an inspiring post to take time and count your blessings. One of my favorite books is The Holy Man by Susan Trott, and in the book she teaches, If you look upon everyone you meet as a Holy Man, you will be truly happy. I love that idea that everyone we meet has something to teach us as only they can. And I think you’re a fabulous teacher.
Good luck with the upcoming changes on your blog. I’m taking Kristen’s author brand class now so I’ll be making some changes myself. Let me know if I can help in anyway! I’d gladly swap guest posts anytime or bounce ideas around with you if you like. 🙂 You know where to find me!
P.S. I’m going to youtube the song from White Christmas that’s playing in my head right now while I stare out the window at Wisconsin’s first snowfall today. “If you’re worried, and you can’t sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep. And you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings!”
What a sweet commentary. Thanks, Jess. I haven’t asked you about guesting – afraid it might be too much with LLC – but since you mentioned it, I think I’ll take you up on it soon.
Thanks for this reminder, Dave. Many of the Asians we see around us are originally from Vietnam. We have some in our lives, too.
In my life I’ve had some hard times! Even when I was in a rough spot, it never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t be able to work my way out of it. That’s the difference between a rich country like America and a poor country like–well, like most of the others. In a rich country, you might be down, but you’re not out until you give up. (The question of those homeless who are mentally ill is another discussion, and one that doesn’t make us look too good, I must say.)
Always love reading your thoughts, Dave. Keep up the good work.
Thanks, Texanne. It’s always nice to find something you said resonated with someone.