We tend to think ill of our friends or our sweetheart, blame them or even get mad with them when they don’t call you, email you, meet you for a while or when they don’t respond to your call, your email timely or suddenly leave you without a word, especially when you need their help.
We usually think of ourselves first, put our needs higher than any one’s. We usually don’t wonder how our friends are when we are looking forward to their help. We usually don’t wonder if they are able to offer help then. Who knows if our friends might need our help or our care too. But for some reasons, they prefer not to voice their request or tell their problem.
Last Friday, I emailed a good friend of mine, first to say thank you to him for helping me to get an internship at The Christian Science Monitor and then to ask him to write a letter of recommendation. I know he is a busy man who often replies to my emails one or two days. Because the recommendation is not urgent, I didn’t bother calling him but just have been awaiting his reply.
This time, I didn’t hear from him until I texted him on Thursday to ask about the conference in Lowell, a city more than 30 miles from Boston. He replied to me and asked me if I secured the internship from The Monitor. A little surprise, I said to him that he missed my email in which I told him about it.
I knew nothing of what happened to him until Friday morning when I came to the conference and was shocked at the news that he was just fired from his position. Believe it or not, he got dismissed on the day I sent him my email via his office email which was blocked as soon as he got the sack. No wonder, my email couldn’t reach him. I might have not learned of his problem if I hadn’t attend the conference because we have no mutual friends. I bet he must have been shocked as well because I could tell how passionate he was about his job. In my eyes, he is one of the top men in his industry.
Because of his sack, I decided not to tell him about my request of his recommendation. I knew he now has more time to help me but I would feel very guilty if I asked him.
Learning of my friend’s situation, I couldn’t focus on what was going on in the conference. I couldn’t help thinking of one of my favorite stories I read about five years ago on a Vietnamese newspaper. I still remember the name of the main character, Khang. He has a best friend since his childhood. They are close like bothers. Their friendship go well until his friend moves to another place in the other end of the country.
They lose each other. Khang experiences many hardships, including faling through in a university entrance exam which he sees as his biggest failure. As a habit, he writes to his friend and tells about his failure but no reply at all. After several non-stop attempts, he gives up.
Many years later, Khang happens to meet his friend again in a restaurant. Now they are in their middle age. At that time, he almost forgives his friend for not replying to his mails. After a few talks, he happens to look down under the table they are sitting.
Guess what he saw.
His friend’s legs had only one left. He can’t believe in his eyes.
The story ends with a question Khang questions himself and I will never forget:
“Khang, where was you then [when his friend met that horrible accident]?”
Living far away from Vietnam has taught me a lot of lessons, among those is the lesson of valuing my family, my relatives and my friendships. I also understand why Facebook is so well-known.
Living far away from home, I feel so warm to receive the continuous care from my best friends, new and old, in Vietnam and America, who often call me or send me a message just to make sure that I’m okay.
My weakness is that when I’m overwhelmed, I tend to ignore everything, including my friends and family. I have tried to fix that wrong habit. I often feel that my friends care for me much more than I do for them.
How about you? If you haven’t heard from your friends or relatives for a long time, why don’t you pick up your phone, shoot an email or go to Facebook to say “hi.” to them? Don’t wait to ask “how are you doing?” until you feel need their help. We tend to use our fast-moving life as an excuse for our ignorance to friends and families.
Who knows they might need your help now. Never let yourself in my recent situation or in Khang’s.
Did you know that I felt so guilty when learning of my uncle’s recent death in Vietnam? I didn’t give him any call since I met him last January. I didn’t know that was the last time :(.
Every meeting can be the last one.
(Lowell, Boston, November/17/2012)