In the 80s our church sponsored a Vietnamese family who came to the U. S. as an extended family. Our women’s guild offered to help them with shopping and settling in. I was only available one morning in that three-month period, so I was determined to make the most of my time with the family. What happened surprised me.
I am by nature an impatient person, yet some gift of grace allowed me to spend my few hours with these strangers in a way that fed their souls and mine.
When I arrived at their home they were already at the door greeting me with warmth and delight. Without words I was ushered in, offered a seat on the sofa, and a cup of freshly brewed tea. The toddler came over and engaged me with his sweetness. The grandfather, sitting opposite me, initiated a “conversation” with a little French, a little English, many hand signals, and an abundance of radiant smiles.
My assigned mission was to take the grandmother and daughters shopping at the grocery store. However, on the way home, the many garage sale signs beckoned and we stopped several times. I began to feel a little tense, then, as I had a professional appointment just after lunch; but I damped down my anxiety, relaxed, and let myself enjoy these warm, gracious women.
A few weeks after my visit, I met the guild president in the hallway of the church. She had given over all her spare time to help this family. She was their main support and the coordinator of our team effort. She seemed miffed at me because I had offered so little time. “What did you do to that family,” she barked at me.
I was puzzled. “What do you mean? I took them shopping as planned. We stopped at a few garage sales. Did I do something wrong?”
“They haven’t stopped talking about you since your visit,” she replied.
Dumfounded, I shrugged helplessly and proceeded down the hall.
Several months later, this family rewarded me with a graciousness and gratitude that overwhelmed me.
One warm June afternoon my family and I were enjoying tea in our garden when two lovely young ladies appeared carrying an elegant cake. In beautiful English these daughters of the Vietnamese family offered me their handmade, decorated cake as a “small token of their gratitude for all my help.” Then, declining our offer of tea, they modestly retreated down the driveway.
“When one knows thee, then alien there is none, then no door is shut. Oh, grant me my prayer that I may never lose the bliss of the touch of the one in the play of the many.”
Rabindranath Tagore, Bengali poet, musician, 1861 – 1941