This I Believe

Vivian - Houston, Texas
Entered on November 24, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

I believe in personal and social responsibilities. I believe each of us has responsibilities first and foremost to ourselves, then our family, and finally to our country.

I came to America in 1993 with my parents and my three younger brothers. Life was tough in Vietnam but I never knew it could get tougher until I came to Texas. My parents worked nights and days to pay the bills and we thought we were holding up fine until my dad due to health-related problems quit his job. Things began to spiral down from that point.

My mom was the only person with a job in our family. She worked at a dry-cleaner for 14 hours a day for 14 years for a steadied rate of less than $5 an hour. Everyday, my mom woke up at 4 in the morning to cook and clean and left the house at 7 to go to work. When she got home, she cooked and cleaned again for us without so much a complaint or tired look on her face. I thought my mom could handle everything until I saw her cry silently with her hands over her mouth in the apartment unit’s bathroom. I needed to step up and help the family.

When I graduated from high school, I did not know how I could afford college or should I even go. There were so many things that I needed my attention and care. Nevertheless, I knew there was no other way out except through education. I obtained loans to go to school and helped my mom paid the bills. I used my scholarship money to buy books and food for us. While attending college, I worked as a program coordinator for a non-profit organization in the community, a tutor for third graders, and on Saturday I helped out at an optometrist’s clinic.

I had to apologize to an uncle who came to visit us and had to pay the electricity bill for us because the utility company cut-off the power. That’s how bad it was for us. I still remember the days I sat in class praying for moments of absolute silence of the mind and heart. I would close my eyes and pretend to sleep and hope never to wake up because I was tired. But I could never doze off long for I would wonder about my family. I thought about my three younger brothers and what they would do if I slept too long.

It is because of my responsibilities to myself that pushed me to not only get an education but also graduated with Honors and a duo degree in Accounting and Finance. Then after three years of working, I and my brothers retire our mother. She still wakes up at four to cook and clean despite our naggings. She says she could not help it. Her body is programmed like an alarm clock she jokes.

One of my younger brothers was accepted to a prestigious medical school last year but declined the offer to pursue his dream of becoming a millionaire. The other brother is currently serving in Iraq and will come home next year. The youngest one is still trying to figure out what to do with his life and I often tell my brothers – no matter what they want to do with their lives, I will always be there to support and lend a helping hand. Our family has gone through so much in just a few years that I believe we have become so much closer and stronger. They believe me when I said that I will be there for them just like I believe I will always have not just three brothers but three partners in life.

Relatives and friends often ask me– “Why?” I have a good job. Why don’t I just move out and do something for myself. I could not give them an answer before because I did not know the answer. Today I will be glad to tell them that I AM doing it for myself and not for my family or anyone else. It may take me longer to get where I want to go but I will get there sooner than most people think.

While I continue to improve my family’s conditions and my personal growth, I look forward to the day when I return to my native country and breathe in the air of freedom for I am too responsible a free and democratic Vietnam.

I believe in responsibilities because they make me a stronger person than nothing could. This I believe.