Feature Article

In Nae: Perseverance
Grand Master James S. Benko, Ph.D.

We may often feel life is not treating us fair. We don't have as much as our neighbor does, yet we seem to work as hard if not harder. We hurry to our jobs only to be slowed down by the "red lights" which seem to catch us at every corner. We find ourselves running out of milk when we need it, and having to drive down to the store. But through all these hardships and inconveniences, we persevere.

It seems that each day brings new challenges and problems we must face. It appears that there are some people who, for some unknown reason, hardly ever face the same difficulties that we do. They go from day to day without ever having to confront the obstacles we must. We pat ourselves on the back and tell ourselves, "Well done." We compliment ourselves on how well we are able to cope with dilemmas and catastrophes. We repeatedly acknowledge to ourselves that we have a special gift which enables us to deal with whatever problem faces us. We persevere.

Just when we think we are unique because we are able to handle the hardships and suffering we must face, we get a slap in the face from reality. We see someone who truly knows the meaning of perseverance.

When I was a Green Beret in Viet Nam, I was wounded several times. One time I was at a hospital in Nha Trang. I had taken shrapnel in the neck, arm, hand, and legs. They flew me to Nha Trang because it was a primary care facility for the more seriously wounded. I remember thinking how lucky I was to have made it out of that tight spot. I was grateful that someone upstairs was watching out for me. I felt pretty good about having suffered and survived three tours of duty in Viet Nam. I had persevered. But I didn't really understand what perseverance was until a few years later.

When she stepped onto the plane she was leaving her entire world behind, perhaps never to return. She hesitated at the steps of the plane, turned and looked back at her family. Her mother was crying. Her father was too upset to even come to the airport. She walked onto the plane never to see her family again. She knew no one in this new world except one man, her future husband.

In 1975 her country fell to the communists. She could not see her family. They were unable to escape in time. She received a letter telling how her brothers were taken as slave labor to the north, never to be heard from again. Her father, in his 70's was forced to work as a slave, building roads. One day she received a letter telling how her father died from forced labor. His body was left by the road. She used to think if she had stayed perhaps things may have been different. Through all of this she kept her pain to herself, never complained, never gave up hope, never wanted pity, she persevered!

South Viet Nam Flag Now, every time I hear someone say how rough his or her day was, or how hard things are, I think of a young Vietnamese woman who gave up everything and asked for nothing. Who had suffered and endured enough for several life-times of hardships. Who had passed away in 1983 and never knew her younger sister had escaped and made it to America. I think of this woman who never got to see her three children grow up. So when you feel life isn't treating you right or things "sure are tough", think of others who have been through much more than you or I and be grateful for what we have. Think of this shy, kind, gentle woman, my late-wife Edna (Dieu), and how she persevered.

Copyright © 1998- James S. Benko and ITA Institute.
All rights reserved.

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