My father's desk, still containing some of his personal files, came into my possession this summer. Daddy died in 1983; but memories were rekindled by this peek at items he chose to save. I found mementos from trips abroad, campaign buttons of causes he supported, and religious pictures and quotations that he most likely collected as inspirations for the Christmas poems he composed annually.


He saved an especially beautiful Christmas card. The silver card is embossed with the message "Peace on Earth". A raised image of a dove composed of gold and blue hues flutters guardedly as if the effort to deliver the olive sprig it carries in its beak might be more than a sole bird is capable of delivering. We can imagine the wings flying. As the card is moved it captures rays of light within the raised relief creating shimmering rays that emanate from the head of the dove. I suspect that Daddy was moved by the hopeful statement in the artistry of the image of the peaceful dove, especially since it was sent by a special young woman I'll name "Trust" for this column.


Trust first entered the fellowship of our family in 1976 when she applied for an open position in the department I managed in downtown LA. This candidate was slight, poised, and singularly beautiful with a melodious voice and the demur manners of her culture. She had recently emigrated from Cambodia leaving behind her younger brothers and sisters, mother, and her father a doctor who was in the lineage of the royal family. Trust was a legitimate princess, accustomed to privilege and deference who owed her life to the accident that she happened to be studying abroad when her county fell to the Khmer Rouge.


She was intelligent, educated, spoke fluent English, and adapted easily to the customs of her adoptive country. Since she was also practical, she had taken bookkeeping classes at a US trade school. When I learned of her regal pedigree, I questioned if she would be willing to accept the position I offered in a back- office accounting department. Her response was honest. She had been working at a ceramic factory making clay bowls where she ruined several of the molds and was fired because of her unwillingness to trim her long sculpted fingernails. The nails were too important for Trust to clip. They represented remnants of her former privileged life and her determination to maintain her dignity.


I don't know what year Trust sent the silver dove Christmas card to my father. It may have been the year we rushed her to the hospital when we discovered she was too proud to let anyone know she was alone in her run-down apartment and too sick to care for herself. That was the year she was filled with foreboding having learned that the Khmer Rouge stormed Phom Pen massacring all the intellectuals. It may have been the year we connected Trust to the assistance of World Vision to see if any of their missionaries remaining in Cambodia could learn if her family was safe. It was unbearable when she learned her father had been massacred after he had volunteered to assist with the medical needs of the invaders and her mother and siblings disappeared when they fled to the countryside in fear of being tracked down and killed.


Trust's perspective was admirable. She spoke of a longing for peace to return to her country. She was proud of the ancient past of Siam/Cambodia; explaining that these Indus people mobilized to war only in self-defense. She mourned not only the loss of her family and for the Buddhist Priests who were publicly sacrificed protesting the invasion but the loss of a peaceful life.


She was not Christian and yet she sent us a Christmas card. Perhaps respecting another culture is the first step toward world-wide peace. Trust's appealed with the silver Christmas card bearing a tentative dove was an eloquent Christmas message from a young world-wise woman from an ancient culture and philosophy. I wish Daddy had expressed Faith's sincere message in his Christmas poetry. But he died too soon; so this is my attempt to do that for him.