Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Who are the unknown, unseen, sometimes invisible people who have helped you in the pandemic?

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember the dullest, most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw them now, you would be strongly tempted to worship... All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit--immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.     --C.S. Lewis

When you are an ex-pat, far away from familiarities, you frequently depend on others' kindness and cheer. You don't expect or demand it because you know it is not always there to give when you need or want it. Sometimes you get lost or disoriented. Other times, you need someone who is willing to talk to you--even when they have never talked to a foreigner before. You know they need to be willing to leave their own comfort zone so you don't expect their cooperation or assistance. But when it comes, and often, so often, it does, there is a lump in my throat or a tear is brushed away. All these people, in some way or another, have rescued me in these pandemic times. Each of them, and there are plenty more, have welcomed a foreigner, a stranger in. And I am grateful. They make me want to connect, engage, speak up, and help a little more. They have lit my world with their candle, and they inspire me to carry a candle for another sojourner on my way. 

Who are the people who have lifted and buoyed you up this year during these pandemic times?  Who has rescued you with a smile, laugh, or even forgiven you? Who has reached out or listened to you? Who are those sometimes unknown, unseen, invisible people who are not vying for any credit or notice?  

This is Vicki who owns a scooter shop in Yangshou, China. In the summer of 2020, we came to Yangshou, one of my favorite places in China. At the time I came, I was sad since I could not go home to see my family that summer. But Vicki, in her natural and characteristic way, had me hop on her scooter. We spent two or three days together laughing and chattering away--with me on the back. Her cheer and happiness spread to my heart--something at the time I needed badly. I cried when I left her, and vowed we would be back. And then fast forward to...

November 2021... We came back. She still has her trademark smile and jokes. Again, she welcomed me again into her heart and home. How I love her...  Pandemics need friends to come back to...

              This is my friend who comes to my house. She is super funny, sweet, almost childlike--very devoted to her Buddhist religion. Around her neck is a voice pendant that repeatedly chants her Buddhist prayers. She loves to tell me how she goes to her Buddhist temples, but cannot go now because of Covid. She spreads cheer and is always laughing. Pandemics need cheer.

My friend, at Elias's opening ceremony for his art exhibit, is always supporting me by helping my Chinese improve, and Elias's art. I so appreciate her openness to talk with me--on a deep level and practice all the words I have been saving up for her. Pandemics need friends who you can speak about substantive and deep things. 

            Here is my friend who assisted Elias and me through our Shanghai quarantine. You can read the blog I wrote about him: Quarantine angel blog He recently traveled from Beijing to come here for Elias's art exhibit opening ceremony. Honestly, I owe him a lot. I always called him "our angel." Pandemics need angels. 

Often, very often, I marvel at the ability of children to love so freely without reservation. We met this little girl in a restaurant in Yangshou. She came to our table and started conversing with us. Her parents pled with her to join their table again. But she insisted on talking to us--showing off that as a five-year-old, she can speak French, Chinese, English, and a little Arabic. We were only too happy to oblige her because she was so adorable. Later, we talked to her parents and were shocked to discover that we had both lived in Doha, Qatar at the same time period. We did not know one another, but had a marvelous time conversing about our old home together. Yet, it took a little child to make that bridge or link. We adults would have never known without her reaching out to us. It was hard to leave her when the time came. Pandemics require us to still reach out--even to strangers. Who knows what back history you will discover?

            This was our driver on a recent trip to Guangxi province. He grew up in a small village in the middle of these iconic mountains. He knows their beauty, but he said as a child, there was not much food because the village had no arid land. He said, "Beauty does not feed the stomach." Pandemics need honesty. 

        Just last week at another one of Elias's art exhibit openings. The woman in the green is one of my best friends here in China. She owns an art school, and the other one is Elias's current art teacher. Their school is one of my favorite places in China--so much love and creativity in that space. You need some creative friends in a pandemic. These are some of ours. Their reservoir of creativity has made all the difference. 
                                  This little guy in the market just brought me joy with his panda suit on. Pandemics need cuteness. 
We were stumped on the Beijing subway, and this young woman came to our aid. She insisted on riding the train with us--even when she did not have to go to our destination--to make sure we arrived where we needed to go. Pandemics need helpers. 

           My neighbor, pictured here, is a famous photographer. She offers her help to Elias every time he has an art exhibit. She doesn't have to, but she freely offers her expertise each time. Pandemics need people who offer their help. 

          This man offered for us to come into his yard because he could see I was interested in his persimmon tree. He just opened the door, and let us walk into his yard Pandemics need sharers.

           We found a restaurant walking through a village about a month ago. That day happened to be the first day they were opened. They insisted that we eat a fine meal for free. It was kind, generous, and very unexpected. It made me want to do an unexpected kind gesture too. Pandemics need generousity.

                   Elias's first art teacher in China. She could say so much with so few words. Pandemics need efforts to communicate, and the realization that silence can is bonding too.

This man makes the best jyanbings or crepes in China. Our city, Tianjin, is famous for jyanbings. Always grateful when we can buy a jyanbing from him--with one or two eggs spread around on top. Pandemics need good cooks. 

This guy was so excited to teach me how to make dumplings. Little did he know, I have made them many times. But with him, it was my most fun time to fill the dumploings. Pandemics need fun times. 

        I met this older woman in a small village in Guangxi province. The surprising thing was that this group of older women invited us into their community space. We, dressed so differently, unlike them in appearance, but their inviting kindness really touched me. I sat next to this older woman. She told me she was ninety and then grabbed my hand to warm it since it was a cold afternoon. And then she grabbed the other hand to hold it. We sat there for about fifteen minutes, while we held each other's hands by the fire. She spoke a little Mandarin, but mostly a dialect I did not know. She did not want words. She just wanted to know someone was close by, and to warm their hands by her fire. Pandemics need warm hands. 

      These two lovely ladies invited us into their homes on a walk around their village this autumn. To not be afraid of a foreigner and be willing to speak to someone who botches their language is dearly appreciated here in China. When I am on the inside, how do I treat someone who is on the periphery or outside my own box? Pandemics need people to think out of the box. 

This wonderful young man is always full of hugs, smiles, and gifts to us when we come to teach art at his school. There is no guile, hypocrisy--just pure love that he delivers. And the other one with the ginger hair, well, he is just the same. They make a great pair! Pandemics need good friends. 

Have you ever met a person who you crossed paths with for a few hours that changed your life? It is likely I will never see her again. But when I think of cheerfulness and unconsciously reaching out to strangers, I will think of her. On a shuttle bus in Hainan, China, she turned around with a smile when she heard Elias singing. She knew I could speak Chinese, and then asked him if he could sing a Chinese song. He answered, "No." So she lovingly taught him one. Later, she told me she had taught kindergarten for 30 years. She was older than me, but was climbing through rivers and up mountains--always with her trademark smile. She unreservedly loved us. Later, she wanted to show us some dance moves and to sing together. I have to say she was irrestibley adorable--so full of spunk, fun, and energy. I thought to myself all the years of learning Chinese is worth it to meet certain people. We had an immediate love for one another. Her smile and cheer will always be with me. She made me want to go and spread some cheer myself. Pandemics need music, dancing, and spunk. 
I love this girl, this young woman, who I have spent countless hours with. She has taught me how to make videos in my yearning to be more tech-savvy. One of the important things in life for an older person (like me), I am told, is to hang around younger people. Instead of having a fixed mindset, younger people help us to have a "growth" mindset. The pandemic would have been very different for me without her. Pandemics need people to teach you new skills. 

1 comment:

  1. Great post. Keep them coming. Great to hear adventures of the heart.