“Two-of-a-Kind Table,” Ensign, July 2004, 63
Having fled Vietnam just three days before the takeover of Saigon in 1975, five members of my large family and I found ourselves living in a small trailer home in Provo, Utah. We had been allowed to bring only a small bag in our flight, and as refugees we were just learning English. Some of my sisters had joined the Church in Vietnam, and I was a recent convert. Now ward members saw to many of our needs, and a close-knit community pooled its resources to make life comfortable for us newcomers.
As a member of the priests quorum, I was assigned to home teach with Brother Johnson, who lived nearby with his large family. One day Brother Johnson noticed that our family had no kitchen table. He appeared the next day with an odd-looking but very functional table that fit nicely against the trailer wall across from the kitchen sink and counters. I say odd-looking because two of the table legs matched the tabletop and two did not. Also, several small wooden pegs stuck out along one edge of the worn surface.
Soon we used this unique table daily for food preparation and for eating some quick meals. We still ate our family meals while we sat on the floor—with food, bowls, and chopsticks spread on a cloth in true Vietnamese fashion.
One evening I stood inside Brother Johnson’s front door as I waited for him before a home teaching appointment. There in the nearby kitchen—I was surprised to see it—was a table practically identical to the one they had given to my family. The only difference was that where our table had pegs, the Johnsons’ table had holes! I then realized that, seeing our need, this charitable man had cut his kitchen table in half and had built two new legs for each half.
It was obvious that the Johnson family could not fit around this small piece of furniture—they probably didn’t fit comfortably around it when it was whole. I like to imagine that the Johnsons learned to eat their family meals on the floor, just as we did, in true Vietnamese fashion.
Throughout my life this kind act has been a powerful reminder of true giving.