Fall 2012 -- Gratitude for What We Have
These days whenever I meet someone from my 'era,' we often find ourselves reminiscing about everything from Yardley Pot O'Gloss to Three Dog Night. Whether we were disco queens or flower children, we Baby Boomers seem to share a special bond when it comes to nostalgia. The woman I met today, who was born 2 months before I was, has very different memories. While I was playing hide-and-seek on the shores of Puget Sound, she was ducking for cover as war planes fired overhead. When I was drinking Tab and eating Diet Figurine Bars to fit into my Danskin disco dresses, she would have given anything for a cup of rice in her village in South Vietnam.
I walked into 'Kim’s Alterations' today to get a dress altered, but I was the one who was altered by the time I left. Having just talked with a friend about the significance of people's 'stories,' I felt compelled to ask Kim if she'd feel comfortable telling me a little about her experiences in Vietnam. As obtrusive as this may sound, it was just the two of us in the shop, and we had established a friendly rapport while she pinned the hem of my dress. She seemed genuinely touched that someone was interested in her story.
I fought back tears as she recounted what it was like to live with constant air raids, bombing, and the loss of so many loved ones. History came alive for me, and perhaps for the first time, I truly 'got' just how small those vessels were that 'the boat people' stepped onto in search
of refuge and hope for the future. Kim was 25 years old with a 2-year-old boy and a nursing 1-year-old baby girl when she stepped onto one of those boats. Pirates seized their boat and kidnapped several young women, and Kim's worst fear was that they would take her, and then
what would become of her babies?
While there is much more to her story, I'll cut to the happy ending.
Today Kim is a happily married business owner. She raised four children who graduated from college, two of whom were valedictorians. The 2-year-old who almost died in her arms on the boat is now a very successful M.D., and her baby? She's an executive for a Fortune 500 company.
I recently read the quote 'You can be greater than anything that can happen to you.' This perfectly describes Kim. Now my question for her was,'How?' While some of us allow injustices to hold us hostage in a perpetual state of victimhood, how was she able to not only move forward, but to thrive? Kim says it's because she always looked toward the future by working hard and by feeling gratitude every day for being alive in the United States.
Kim is my inspiration this Thanksgiving. If someone who has lived through the horrors of war can allow hard work and gratitude to propel her into such a satisfying life, why can't it work for us all? Rather than dwelling in the past, she was and still is committed to working toward a
better future. And rather than being driven by pride or the desire for prestige or more things, she is inspired by a sense of gratitude every day. My hope is that her story inspires you as much as it did me and that it leads you to a deep sense of gratitude for your own story, knowing
you really can be greater than anything that can happen to you.