When I Begin to Fall, by Bao H. Xiong

“When I Begin to Fall”

A strong, brave, and dedicated young man, he stands tall and proud of the achievements he has worked long for all his life. The big smile he always wears on his face tells many a story that doesn’t tell another he hides deep in his eyes. His bubbly personality and friendly conversations almost make you feel like you’ve known him for years. At only 5 feet 7 inches and a big happy belly from the many years of happiness and days gone by without worrying about whether there will be any food to eat, he is a kind and jolly fellow that would take the shirt off his back for you any day.

Jimmy was the oldest of four children raised during the chaotic warfare of the Vietnam War. Born in Southeast Asia in Laos, a country which lies just west of the South China Sea and east of Thailand, to parents who were farmers, they lived a very short period of time in their lives together on the high, steep, and ruthless mountains of Laos. Food was scarce and survival was key. Enduring cold weather, wild jungle animals, steep terrain, and hardship, life was very difficult and grueling.

Jimmy would not be prepared for what would be the next couple of years of pain and sorrow as the war drew near to it’s ending. Between the ages of five and seven, he lost a father who was killed in the war, a younger sister who drowned in the Mekong waters that separate Thailand from Laos trying to cross the border to freedom, and a mother and sister while running from enemies of the war.

Once he reached Thailand, he was neglected and unwanted from one relative to another. No relative was able to bring him into their family and provide for him due to their own hardships. Jimmy eventually was introduced to a couple who ran a small Christian missionary orphanage on the refugee camp in Thailand. This is where he would spend the next three years of his life until his grandfather found him and brought him to the United States.

“It’s not much, but it’s something and something is always better than nothing.” A familiar saying that I always hear when Jimmy get’s a little of something, not expecting anything or when one complains of not having anything good in life. This is Jimmy’s humble way of life and these are the grounds based on how he leads his life, with thanks everyday for the things he has that matters the most to him.

“People shouldn’t complain. It won’t get them anywhere and it won’t make them happy too. I lived most of my childhood with no shoes to cover my feet, a half torn t-shirt to keep me warm during the cold nights, and a very short pair of shorts fit for a two year old. Now why do people these days need new clothes and shoes all the time?”

Hearing this, one would think that Jimmy is a frugal young man if they didn’t know him like I do. One would think that he saves every penny he get’s. But Jimmy actually likes to spend the money he has worked hard for. Maybe not on him, but he sure wouldn’t think twice if it was for his loved ones.

“Always tell yourself, do you truly need it or do you just want it?”, Jimmy once said to me while we were shopping for clothes. “Many people think they need everything like the new car, new television that just came out, or the new electronic that everyone has been raving about.”

Listening to Jimmy when he say’s this, I think twice about what I need and what I want. It has helped me to determine what is most important in life like family and love rather than selfishly thinking about one‘s own materialistic needs.

We don’t have to live lavishly to be happy and Jimmy has taught me all this. I’ve learned a lot from Jimmy you see through the many years that I’ve known him. Sometimes I can still see the lonely, hungry, and scared young boy when I look into his eyes. He has come far and has endured much. Through all the pain and hardships he has gone through, he has remained strong. He is my teacher, my helper, my inspiration, and my strength. Not only has he taught me to appreciate the better things in life that truly matter like family and each other, but he has shouldered me through the good times in life and the bad times as well and has remained that one guiding light that leads me back when I begin to fall. He is my joy and my happiness. He is my husband and my one true best friend.

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