After pondering President Hinckley’s recent General Conference remarks about the need for more gratitude and kindness, I received a thoughtful comment from a Hmong man living in the United States, sent in response to a blog post of mine about Hmong New Year celebration in Appleton, Wisconsin. After thanking me for the photos and my Hmong site, he offered this nugget:
I want to share this personal story to this American friend. I am 42 years old now. When I was about 9-10 years old, I remembered an American helicopter pilot came to our village in Samnuen, Laos. My dad and the rest of the men in the village got together and talked about how to take care of this American man. They agreed that each family had to donate a chicken to make food for the American friend because he was from a country like heaven. We (kids) followed him every where he went. He looked so strange but nice at the same time. The village treated him and respected him like a king. I have not seen any Hmong person who would not like this man. You know, I was never imagined that I would have a chance to see a heavenly country like this America. Thanks god that we poor Hmong people got to know American service men during the war and had always kept the strong relationship with the Americans until these days. I know that our people did a good job for American men during the war, but in return, America has provided freedom, opportunity, other legal, social and political assistance to the Hmong world wide. There isn’t any country in the whole world that will listen to and help the Hmong like the U.S. Thanks, again.
I am so amazed at the spirit of gratitude this man shows. He could have been bitter about how the US dragged his people into war, about how we left them helpless against the Communists when we suddenly withdrew from the secret wars in Laos, about how so many Hmong people died and lost all they had and had to flee to a new, strange country. But the spirit of his father’s example lives on, an example of treating the American strangers with respect and kindness, and now with gratitude. Really, if you know the suffering of the Hmong people, the tragedy of the wars on Laos, and the challenges of the Hmong in America, this comment touches me deeply. Whether he is Christian or not, there is a Christlike spirit in his words. Gratitude, kindness, and respect for one another – how this world needs more of that.
If you know the story of the Hmong, you know that hundreds gave their lives to rescue American pilots show down near the Ho Chi Minh trail. In at least one case I have read about, nearly a hundred did die in a desperate and successful attempt to rescue a downed fighter pilot. Many may have died to rescue the helicopter pilot in the man’s village. It is we who owe a debt of gratitude to the Hmong for their valiant fighting for American lives, a story that remains largely unknown because the US activities in Laos were kept secret throughout the Vietnam War. I am deeply moved to have this man and many other Hmong people express gratitude to America and to show us so much kindness, such as the wonderful kindness I have experienced in the Fox Cities Hmong Branch here in Wisconsin.