Hard Gratitude

Minh-Duyen - Wichita, Kansas
Entered on February 25, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: work

I believe that a person can never work hard enough. To me, hard work isn’t simply a form of self ingratiation where I can pat myself on the back after two hours of rigorous exercise or book reading. Hard work is instead a means of the greatest gratitude that I can offer.

I was born in a small village in Vietnam and a little more than ten years ago, my family and I immigrated to the United States. The person I missed most, and still miss even now is my grandma. My most distinct memory is the five o’clock morning masses that we would attend together on Sundays. I would wear my prettiest dress, and walk with her up the hill to the village church feeling protected from the phenomenon I knew only as the neighborhood ghost that would attack passersby early in the morning. My Grandma provided for the perfect childhood.

Immigrating and adjusting to the United States was one of the hardest times of my life, it was augmented by the absence of my grandmother. When we first arrived in the United States, my family was literally homeless. A kind pastor took us in until the Lutheran Charity (ironically, we’re Catholic) was able to find an apartment for our family; they paid rent for us for the first few months until we could receive government assistance. The six of us were cramped into a three-bedroom apartment with thin walls and insistent cockroaches. Nevertheless, my family was beyond thankful.

I had trouble in school, I had no friends, my grades were terrible, and I didn’t get along well with my teachers. Ironically, I hadn’t known the value of hardwork until I came to the United States. I lagged behind the other children, I was the dumb one, and for once in my life, I was disadvantaged.

I am the first generation in my family to ever attempt to attend college. My Dad first received his diploma at the age of forty when we moved to the United States. My mom, fleeing from the Communist regime in the North was never able to finish high school. When my parents moved to the United States, they didn’t leave their family and friends for their own benefit, but rather to give my siblings and me the opportunity we would have never received in Vietnam. I realized that my parents hard work was their form of gratitude for my siblings and me. Whether my siblings and I deserved this gratitude or not, is another issue. I realized that the only gratitude that I could give, that would be good enough for my parents would be my own hard work. So I studied and read because I no longer wanted to catch up to my peers, I wanted to surpass them. I know that no matter how hard I work, I will never be able to pay back my parents in kind, but knowing that debt still exists is more than acceptable to me.