Some thoughts this 4th of July weekend…

Books that make you think

The girls and I got busy reading Where the Wind Leads last month.

(I have read this book before…all about that back HERE…but in my frenzy to try to get my girls loving reading more, I picked this one to read aloud to them. I wanted to re-read and I knew it was something that would touch them.)

We read to Claire while she cleaned out the garage. And while Lucy did the dishes.

We read waiting at the doctor’s office.

We read in the car.

We read sprawled out on the couch.

And for the last few days we calculated we needed to read fifty pages a day to finish it up before we all split ways. Some days I wondered if it was making my girls hate reading rather than loving it. Ha!

But honestly, I think deep-down we all loved that productive time together, learning so much about the world and the journeys of others. The things they learn from those journeys and what we can learn vicariously through them.

On our last day I got the girls up early so we could finish the last twenty pages of our book, all snuggled in Lucy’s bedroom together.

I read through tears thinking about all that we take so for granted here in America, about “where the wind has led me.” I did nothing to deserve my parents, my family, where I live, the gospel, just like Vinh (the author) as a three-year-old kid fleeing from Vietnam didn’t have any power to guide his little fishing boat that was picked up by the humanitarian group in the South China Sea that ultimately led to a church group sponsoring he and his family in Arkansas…and eventually brought him to graduate from Harvard Medical School.

And as I contemplate the 4th of July this weekend, these thoughts keep running through my head.

“What makes someone and American? From a legal perspective the answer is simple…but I’ve come to believe that being an American involves more than a birthplace, legal status, or ancestry; it involves a set of shared values and beliefs about opportunity, prosperity, and fairness. Generations of refugees and immigrants who came to this country understood and shared those values and beliefs, and by doing so some of them became more American than many who were born here.”

Yes, in this book Vinh Chung is talking about America. That is where the wind led him. And OH! I am so grateful for this country of mine. The opportunities it has given me and my family. But I think this thought relates to all of us humans living in this world.

“I am a refugee, and I always will be. But in a way, all of us are refugees. We are all born in a time and place we didn’t choose, born without language, property, or money…we are all strangers in a strange land, left to fend for ourselves…and as we find our way in this world we need to help others do the same. We all have been blessed–every one of us–and we are all expected to give back.”

What do we do with it? The goodness in our lives? Something I’m continually striving to figure out.

So grateful for this land of opportunity. And that my girls and I got to ponder it all together as we read the miraculous story of someone who was led here by the wind, used his opportunities to learn and grow in so many ways, and taught us to be even more grateful.

Happy 4th of July!

If you like books that give you a window into the lives of others, try these ones:

Where the Wind Leads

(I know I already talked about that one in this post, but this link has more info. and I want to have it in this list.)

Nothing to Envy

Mao’s Last Dancer

Hillbilly Elegy

Letters to a Young Muslim

Thoughts on the power of writing and reading (click here)

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  1. I read that book a couple of years ago and LOVED it! Such a good one! Thanks for reminding me about it and for your great thoughts!

  2. Can’t wait to read this, as my family was a sponsoring family for Cambodians. What a blessing to watch them thrive and succeed over the years.
    One more thing …
    “led to a church group sponsoring he and his family”
    should read “sponsoring HIM and his family.” (“Him” is an object pronoun which follows verbs and prepositions.)

  3. Thanks for the book recommendation and to know it’s appropriate for your family too, excited to check it out! A few of my siblings and my mom have also recommended “The Girl with 7 Names” I’m going to check that one out too! So many good books… Have you read “City of Tranquil Light” by Bo Caldwell? SO) GOOD. Highly recommend it… it’s riveting.
    Your comment about all of us being refugees made me think of that scripture I love! It’s in The Book of Mormon, and I come back to it over and over again in life… it seems to sum up its & life’s whole message: “For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?”(-Mosiah 4:19)… I also always think of the passage in 2 Nephi 1 where it says “that there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord…” when I think of anyone who has or is coming here! If people want to hear some incredible stories of refugees, check out The Book of Mormon! It’s full of incredible journeys and peoples!! We debate about the history of America currently in some areas… The Book of Mormon also gives incredible insights into the history of this land and people from years before it was established by colonists… that some may not know about but wonder about specifically… and answers the question of who were the ancestors of the Native Americans and what is their story of refuge?! I also love the scripture in the Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 26:24,25,28, 32,33 “He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation. Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price. Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but he hath given it free for all men; and he hath commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance. Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden. for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.” Love each of our stories and that true thought that we are all needed, we are all remembered, and God calls to all of us to remember who we are and that we are brothers and sisters in this great world He created.

    1. I loved the Girl with Seven Names! It made me think the same thoughts that Shawni expressed – how lucky I am to have been born in this country in this time. I could have so easily been born in North Korea or elsewhere. And the COURAGE people have to keep going.

    2. SO many good thoughts Catherine and Libby. Thank you for sharing. I’ve heard the Girl with Seven Names is so good as well. “Mao’s Last Dancer” and “Hillbilly Elegy” are also so good filled up with courage against tough circumstances. Also “Left to Tell” and and “Nothing to Envy.” Sorry, now I’m just thinking of so many I need to add to the post. And yes Catherine, so many good examples in The Book of Mormon as well!

  4. Thank you for the book recommendation! I checked it out and have just started reading it. I love books that give me insight into and understanding of other times, places, and lives of people in this world.

    I have a question…You often show pictures of dog-eared pages of the books you have read, along with passages underlined. Do you do anything further with those passages to help you refer back to them when you want to? Like do you keep a reading journal or a quote book where you copy down those passages? I love that you treat books a little bit like a textbook and so I’m just curious if that’s as far as you go or if you do other things to help you remember/find things you want to remember. Hope my question makes sense! 🙂

    1. Yes I think it makes sense…I wish I had an organized reading journal or quote book for those things, but mostly I actually use this blog as a place to jot down thoughts and quotes. Then it’s easy to come back and remember what I loved. This seems to work pretty well for me so I’m grateful for the blog! I wrote this post so fast I didn’t put in links to the other books similar to it as well as my thoughts the last time I read this book, so I’m going to add those real quick.

  5. Thanks for your book recommendations. I have added them to my “To Read” list. Another EXCELLENT book written by a refugee is “Running for My Life: One Lost Boy’s Journey from the Killing Fields of Sudan to the Olympic Games” by Lopez Lomong. It is a very engaging and worthwhile read.

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