• Wartakanlah Injil kepada segala makhluk.
    Mrk 16:15

  • 你们往普天下去, 向一切受造物宣传福音
    谷 16:15

  • Everything is possible by the power of the Holy Spirit’s Grace.
    St Arnold Janssen

  • Segala sesuatu menjadi mungkin dalam kekuatan karunia Roh Kudus.
    St. Arnold Janssen

  • 我当传教士不是为主牺牲,而是上主给我的最大恩赐
    圣福若瑟神父

  • Với sức mạnh Ân Huệ của Chúa Thánh Thần, Mọi việc đều có thể được.
    St Arnoldus Janssen

  • Preach the Gospel to the whole creation./Anh em hãy đi khắp tứ phương thiên hạ, loan báo Tin Mừng cho mọi loài thọ tạo
    Mk 16:15

  • There are many different gifts, but it is always the same Spirit.
    1 Cor 12:4

  • And the Word became flesh and lived among us.
    Jn 1:14

  • Let the word of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you.
    Col 3:16

  • To proclaim the Good News is the first and greatest act of love of neighbour.
    St Arnold Janssen

  • 传扬天国福音是第一且最大的爱近人行动
    圣杨生•爱诺德神父

  • Có nhiều đặc sủng khác nhau, nhưng chỉ có một Thần Khí/
    1 Cor. 14:4

  • 圣言成了血肉,寄居在我们中间
    若 1:14

  • Ada rupa-rupa karunia, tetapi Roh satu
    1 Kor 12:4

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Thursday, 29 October 2020 12:31

An Extra-Ordinary Friendship - reflection

 

Fr Anthony Le Duc SVD 150 LighterBy Fr Anthony Le Duc SVD

Recently, the story of a pair of friends in Vietnam went viral on Vietnamese social media because it was as extraordinary as it was profoundly touching. For the past 10 years, Hieu has been carrying his friend Minh on his back to school every day without fail. It began in the second grade when Hieu volunteered to take Minh on his back to school because Minh was born with a disability in both his legs and one of his arms. Seeing himself and others able to go to school, Hieu could not bear to see Minh unable to get an education because of his disability. What began in the second grade has continued without ceasing until now, when both graduated from high school with top honours. Minh has passed his university entrance exam with high scores and has been admitted to a university in Hanoi where he will be studying IT. As for Hieu, he has now been admitted to medical school in Thai Binh province. Both have been granted full scholarships from their respective universities due to their academic abilities as well as their extraordinary story of friendship and fidelity to one another.

According to Hieu, taking Minh on his back every day to go to school, around the school, and even in the classroom when Minh had to go to the board to make presentations was never a sacrifice. Even though when the two began going to school together, trekking several kilometres on the unpaved rural road in their village, there were onlookers who thought it was a waste of time for Hieu to go through the trouble. Some thought that in his condition, sooner or later, Minh would quit school. But the two young boys did not let these doubtful gazes and comments bother them. They were committed to each other, to their friendship, and to their education.

Hieu said that he was willing to take Minh on his back the rest of his life. Unfortunately, Hieu missed the entrance score needed to enter a medical school in Hanoi, which would be near Minh, by 0.25 point and had to settle for another medical school far away from his friend. Although they are forced to study far apart and no longer able to support each other in the same way as they have for the last 10 years, but both Minh and Hieu affirm that their friendship will never end. The bond that has been created between them since childhood will last them a lifetime.

Picture1There are many more deeply moving details about the friendship between Hieu and Minh that could be told. However, the main details related above are enough to explain why their story has gone viral in Vietnam, and has been called a modern day folktale by countless people who heard or read about these two friends. Indeed, their story has captured the Vietnamese public heart and imagination because of the purity of their friendship, the utterly selfless act of kindness that the two friends display to one another, the absolute ability of each person to look beyond superficial individual characteristics, and the conviction that one can succeed not because of pity but because of genuine support from others.

What is most extraordinary about Hieu and Minh is that in the way they treat one another, what other people would consider strange is for them completely normal. For others, it was strange for a young boy to be willing to carry another boy on his back to school day in, day out. But for Hieu and Minh, it was normal. For others, it was strange for a disabled boy from a poor family to want to go to school, doing so on another boy’s back, no less. But for the two friends, it was normal. What began as a strange thing to see eventually would become normal and familiar because the two friends never quit. Instead of adjusting their actions to fit the perceptions of other people, they forced others to change their mentality simply by doing what they believed was right. In fact, at school, not only Hieu carried Minh on his back, but other friends were also inspired to do the same when Hieu was not around.

In this age of the coronavirus pandemic where everyone is forced to social distance, keeping apart from one another for fear of giving disease to each other, the close distance between Hieu and Minh is one that we all can happily make an exception for.

Pope Francis’ new Encyclical Fratelli Tutti reminds us to recapture the true meaning of relationship, which is sometimes distorted by modern digital technology. The Holy Father writes that digitally mediated relationships “lack the physical gestures, facial expressions, moments of silence, body language and even the smells, the trembling of hands, the blushes and perspiration that speak to us and are a part of human communication” (43). Indeed, the friendship exhibited by Hieu and Minh embodies everything that Pope Francis mentions in the observation above. They model for us how to be in relationship – not only in close physical proximity, but in the lifting of each other up physically, emotionally and spiritually with love, compassion and respect.

Hieu not only lifts Minh up on his back but also lifts up his dignity, affirming Minh’s own expressed conviction that he is a normal person like everyone else. Minh also lifts Hieu up because it is in the very way that they live out their friendship that Hieu cultivates his own humanism, developing the truly essential virtues of being a person – humility, patience, compassion, empathy, kindness, generosity, and loyalty.

As we make the difficult journey through this time of the pandemic, it is important that we continue to reassess our relationships and strive for building truly authentic relationships with others. We are invited to reach out to others, to come to the side of those who are injured, to extend a welcoming gesture to strangers, to display empathy to those who are suffering, to encourage those who are despairing, to lift up those who are being pushed down. Some might choose to misuse digital technology by making it the primary medium for engaging with others. Others might take the pandemic as an excuse for turning inward and ignoring the need of others. Still others might allow themselves to be stricken by fear and prejudice, thus not daring to build relationships with those who are different from them.

If the story of Hieu and Minh teaches us anything, it is that in opening ourselves up to each other in authentic relationship, not only are we transformed, but so are the people around us, and perhaps even those whom we have never met, including those on social media.