Over the last three years, an able-bodied Vietnamese boy has been cycling side by side his wheelchair-bound friend on their daily journey to school and back, overcoming their physical differences to form an unbreakable friendship.
On a late April day, on the noisy National Highway 1A running through Can Loc District in the north-central province of Ha Tinh, the two close friends were heading to school together on their man-powered vehicles.
It was their first day back at school after many months of being off due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Tran Manh Linh is an eighth-grader at Nguyen Tat Thanh Middle School in Can Loc District, while his friend Tran Van Bao Tin is in grade nine at the same school.
Linh was born with a mobility impairment and has to rely on a modified tricycle to get to school.
It only takes Tin, a healthy person, a few minutes to cycle the distance of about 1.5 kilometers between his home and the school, but he has chosen to pedal very slowly alongside Linh, his disabled best friend, on their everyday journey.
“It was most difficult when his tricycle was broken down and I had to help push the tricycle all the way back home while my friend steered it," Tin told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
“I found that the journey to school is much harder for him.
“There were days when he was too tired to eat after being under the hot weather that is typical of the central region. I have much compassion for him. I encourage him to study in order to get a stable job in the future.”
According to Tin, because they have been close friends since both of them were small children, he feels willing to accompany Linh each day despite their physical and situational differences.
Tin helped Linh learn how to pedal and steer the modified tricycle with his hands and how to maneuver it comfortably in order to minimize his friend’s fatigue on their daily journey.
They were not easy lessons to learn, as Linh’s disability has not only rendered him unable to walk but also weakened his arms.
“At first I found it was really hard to control the bike, but after a long time, I gradually got used to it,” Linh shared.
“I tried to learn with Tin and he helped me push the bike.”
Linh’s unforgettable memories were the days when it was raining cats and dogs and the bike seemed not to follow his navigation efforts, moving extremely slowly.
Unfailingly, Tin would slow down to match his friend’s pace, leaving both of them wet from the downpour.
“I tell myself that I’ll try my best [to study] because he has helped me too much,” Linh said determinedly.
Tin said he also resolves to help his friend until he can get into a university, as the pair pedaled on under the Can Loc sun, which felt a lot more bearable thanks to their heartwarming story.