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by Abigail Van Buren

Refugee Honors American Mom and Vietnamese Mother, Too

DEAR ABBY: Mother's Day always brings back memories of an incident that happened three years ago.

For the past several years, after attending church on Sunday, my wife and I have stopped for lunch at a Chinese restaurant. We have become acquainted with a young man who works there. He escaped from Vietnam with his family in a rickety old boat when he was very small.

Our daughter, who lives in Dallas, had sent my wife a beautiful Mother's Day corsage to wear to church as an expression of her love. The young waiter exclaimed how beautiful the flower was, and asked if it was for a special occasion.

We explained that in the United States, on this particular day children often send their mothers flowers as a token of appreciation, honoring their motherhood. The young man said they did not have this custom in Vietnam, but that he thought it was appropriate.

He left our table, then returned a few minutes later. He stood there looking embarrassed, then hesitantly said, "I think this tradition of honoring your mother on a special day is wonderful. Please allow me to pay for your meal today in honor of my mother, who suffered so many hardships in our small boat when we escaped from our homeland to the internment camp in Singapore."

My wife and I sat in silence for a few moments. Then, with tears in her eyes, my wife told him we would be honored to accept his gracious offer.

Now on the day set aside to honor mothers, we cherish not only the memory of our own mothers, but also the memory of this remarkable Vietnamese mother we have never met. -- JIM ISBELL, FORT WORTH, TEXAS

DEAR JIM: Your letter brought tears to my eyes, and I'm sure its inspirational message will move many other readers. Thank you for sharing this lovely memory.