I have a friend whose name is Tho. (Say “Tom” without the “m” syllable.) Tho is from Vietnam during the infamous war in the 70s. When he was young, Tho promised God that he would become a doctor for the poor.
Tho’s Dad was the General in southern Vietnam and when the United States troops left rhe General was captured by his communist enemy as a spy. Many, many years later the United States worked out a deal to allow Tho and his family to United States. The Chi family accepted the appeasing kindness of the U.S. government and on the fly landed in Tennessee. At the airport Tho and his family were welcomed by a Catholic church group who offered pizza and English tutoring. Tho by this time was arriving in his middle age years and while attending the Christian church he remembered his promise to God. Tho fiercely pursued his higher education in pre-med. At the same time he was instructed in the English language. His faith-filled passionate studies allowed him to graduate at the top of his class. The hard work kept a door of hope open so his chance of medical school education might happen. The risk paid off. He was accepted to osteopathic school of medicine.
Everyone knows that medical school is extremely competitive and some of the most difficult studying takes place. And that’s for a first-language English speaking American citizen. The scales of success weighed heavy against Tho. He obviously needed help. God!?!? Where are You!?!? It was the Christian medical students and staff who sacrificed their time and energies on this little Vietnamese man. Christian students in his class shared their precious notes from class, unlike the others who hoarded their wealth for personal gain. And the Christians were maybe a bit foolish allowing others to maybe out-perform them because of their sharing of notes. The closer to the top a med student is the chances of a better job and pay would be offered. Thos Christian professors allowed Tho extra time to slowly interpret the language of each question. Tho knew the answers because he studied harder than anyone I have ever seen. I know because I saw and met him performing his inhumane feats at Barnes and Noble. I befriended Tho at one of the lowest periods of my life. I was married, lost our first child to a miscarriage, and was working taking in barely over minimum wage as a bookseller. I sold Tho his medical books. I noticed this awkward speaking, short muscular Vietnamese man who studied inside the big box store when the doors opened and was nearly kicked out t at close. Over time Tho and I became good freinds. I was enlightened on Tho’s story and found out tastefully that his grandma cooked at a high-class restaurant in Saigon and taught Tho everything he knows. Tho fed new life into my malnourished and depressed physical body. Tho had faith and hope amongst his injust suffering which allowed me not only to get off my bad self, but to be encouraged in my own walk with God that all will be well in the end.
As a sign of friendship Tho gave me a children’s story book written in the Vietnamese language. I know about maybe ten words in Vietnamese so I had Tho translate a story for me aloud. It was about a Father who had a rich inheritance to give his three sons. One day he came up with a plan of how he would give the riches to them. “If one of you can break this entire bundle of chop sticks. Then I will give you all of the inheritance. Let us begin with the oldest son. So the oldest son, bigger and stronger and wiser than his other two brother came proudly over to his father and tried instantly with his big muscles to snap the bundle. He grunted and snorted and scream but could not break a single chopstick. The next brother in line still chuckling at his older brothers expense timidly took hold of the bundle. He whimpered and whined but still the chopsticks remained in tact. Last the youngest brother who by now was realizing this was no laughing matter, he could be the richest man alive if, only if he could—but he couldn’t. The father all the while watching his sons shook his head in dismay. “My Sons” he said in Vietnamese, “Watch.” And he separated the bundle into single chopsticks easily breaking each one by one. “You see, boys.” He said, “If you stick together as a family you are unbreakable, but if you separate you can easily be broken. Be a family together and enjoy all the riches I have for you.”