This blog post is really just about an experience.
Yesterday was Rachel’s 19th birthday. Two of our precious Chinese friends, LuLu and JingJie, came to spend the day with us and celebrate together. We ate breakfast, and a cake, and sang songs, and had a wonderful time until JingJie had to leave mid-afternoon. After that, we set out with LuLu to do what Rachel had wanted to do on her birthday: give.
We went over to the little supermarket and Rachel got a big bag of tasty, individually wrapped treats and breads and such. We told LuLu what we wanted to do, but she tried to tell us that it was strange, she’d never done it before… etc. But soon, we were out on the street in the marketplace. Let the giving begin.
As we headed out into this street market that we have walked through oh-so-many times, we headed over to the security office and handed one to the man there. We passed some out to a mom and her baby, with LuLu saying for Rachel, “今天是他的生日,他给你，” meaning, “Today is her birthday, and she wants to give this to you!” We gave two cookies to the man and woman at a fruit stand who always smile and give us a fair price. They gave Rachel an apple. We kept passing things out as we headed to the veggie part of the market where another vendor we were getting to know was working. With LuLu to translate, we were able to tell her that she was our friend, and we came to give something to her. And of course the fruit vendor across the way from her got one as well for all the oranges she has sold to Rachel. And then there was the boy who is always working at his parents’ little bread stand, we had to make sure he got one. And the lady who sits surrounded by her fruits and makes dumplings in the evenings.
Rachel bent down and gave one to a small child in a stroller, and then one to the child’s mother. When the mom saw us, she smiled very big and started speaking very quickly to LuLu. With the little Chinese I can speak, I managed to understand what she was saying, and it took my breath away. She recognized me, she said. I was the one who had given her little girl 2 yuan because she didn’t have enough to buy the candy she wanted. It has been six weeks at least since that day, and it had drifted into the corners of my mind. But this mother was still so touched by it that she talked to LuLu about it for more than five minutes, saying that she didn’t know how to thank me. My Best Friend gave me the words to respond, “Maybe because I gave her 2 yuan, someday when HanHan (remembered her name – praise Him!) grows up, she will learn to give to others as well.”
Soon, very soon, all the treats in our big bag were gone. There were happy children everywhere, and contented shopkeepers looking on with pleasure. As we walked out of the market and back to the school, Rachel and I looked at each other in amazement, remembering that first day in Beijing, when we had set the goal of making a friend during these few months. A friend. And all of a sudden, we realized just how many friends we have. In giving, we discovered how many friends we have been given. We may not be able to speak more than a few broken words to each other, but I think they can feel that they are loved. And that is all that matters.
It truly is better to give than to receive. Though the muffin that a teacher just gave me is pretty great too...