Eyes closed. Lips pursed. Looking skyward. He'd be lost in his music and finding that place of no stress, no worries, like some reset button on his computer. He has a name for it: Heaven.
But he got close to that Thursday afternoon. I watched. Risuin Ksor stood with his classmates, the students who call him Suin. That's pronounced like swim with an "n.'' They all had just graduated from
He made it. He graduated. After he told me his story, I wonder how.
He heard how the Vietnamese government wanted his whole family killed. He heard how the government put a bounty on his father's head --
He heard how his dad, a Christian missionary, preached, built churches, created choirs and worked as an interpreter for
Hate sometimes never forgets. Montagnards aided the Americans during the Vietnam War, and two decades later, the government wanted them gone whatever way possible. So, Suin's father spent three years escorting 600 Montagnards across the border into
Suin told me his dad and the other refugees walked through the jungle as far as, say,
He remembers the letter from their dad telling him and his mom to flee
He remembers the escapes, sometimes hours before daybreak with minutes to gather their belongings. And he remembers the thought imbedded in his mind: I'm going to die in
All this happened when Suin was no older than 6. Now, at 18, he has learned from that.
"It helped me grow stronger because I have nothing to worry about,'' he tells me. "I am in a safe place.''
One safe place was
He didn't always feel like that. Not at all.
Suin arrived 12 years ago in
He got there because of his guitar. And his dad.
It was his eighth-grade year when he saw his dad playing guitar in the basement of their local church. His mom sang, and she and his dad harmonized on the old hymn "What a Friend We Have in Jesus.''
Suin loved what he saw. His dad taught him a few chords and later got him a few lessons at Don's Music City on
His teacher encouraged him to try out. Suin did.
See, Lui remembers. Nearly a quarter-century ago, he came from
So, Lui pushed Suin hard, and the more he pushed, the harder Suin worked. A year ago, Weaver named Suin its most valuable guitar student. Lui gave him lessons all summer -- in exchange for chores at his house.
Last summer, Suin placed third in the high school division of a national guitar competition. This spring, Suin won the award as Weaver's most outstanding guitar student. Next fall, he will attend
And he got a full ride. Suin wants to be a music teacher. Just like Lui.
"Music,'' he says. "It helped me find myself.''
Suin's dad drives a forklift, and his mom works as a housekeeper at a local nursing home. His middle brother, Phillip, will go to
In their house, they speak Jrai, the language of
Hhmyil Ksor smiled. Suin's dad,
Suin didn't mind. After graduation, surrounded by his friends, Suin felt numb. I asked about it -- the ceremony, the everything. He had three words.
"I did it.''
(c)2014 the News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.)
Visit the News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.) at www.news-record.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services