Memoir: The Beauty in Life
May 5, 2016
Back in January of 1994, I was living with my husband and daughter in a beautiful coastal city in eastern China. I had a job as a human resource manager for the Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation Bureau. I was sent to an HR seminar in Beijing. The northern wind was cold as ice, sending waves of chills when I least expected it. After a little exploration into the city, I willingly surrendered to its freezing fire and found my way back to the warm hotel – the only gift that the chilly winter brings was the hope of upcoming spring.
As I opened the door to my hotel room, an unexpected and shocking mess greeted me. The drawers were open and the mattress was upside down. Everything was gone! My luggage had disappeared, and I had lost everything, including my passport for a Japan business visa application, a brand new digital camera, and a large sum of cash (this was before debit and credit cards). After some investigation, the hotel manager told me that an inexperienced housekeeping staff had opened the door for a woman who claimed that she had lost the keys. I got very frustrated at the senselessness of the hotel staff and the worry of what’s to come began tumbling down like a storm.
The evening air was bitter cold. I wandered along the moat without any appetite and blamed my own negligence for leaving such a large amount of cash in the hotel. I looked up to the despairing black sky and let out a sigh of anger and distress.
“Would you like to buy a flower?” a soft and childish voice whispered beside me. I looked past my shoulders and saw a small body covered in shabby cotton-padded cloth stood underneath the street lamp. The girl was no more than six or seven years old. She held out flowers with frozen fingers and begged me with a pair of innocent yet melancholy eyes. The sight of her filled my heart with sadness. I bent down and placed three twenty dollar bills into her hand.
“Here you go, you can keep the flowers.” The girl’s eyes all of a sudden widened with astonishment. She bowed down gratefully and dashed away with a cheerful hop. She hopped past a beggar, looked at him, and dropped a twenty into his hands before hopping away happily again. At the sight of this, a stream of warmth gushed out from my heart.
The little girl’s parents probably moved here from a remote village to seek out a better life. At this age, she should be spoiled in her parents’ arms like other kids, but instead, she is forced to bear the burden of poverty on her shoulders. She did not despair over her less fortunate upbringing, nor did she feel saddened by the sight of pampered little princesses walking past her; she complained neither of the coldness nor of the lack of people willing to help her. She simply stood in the cold winter night doing her job, hoping that she too could help her family. She was poor, but she was more compassionate and generous than those who already have everything. I thought back to earlier that day and realized that everything up to this point was just yet another unexpected turn in life. We cannot control what happens to us but we certainly can control what we do about it. The people who robbed my hotel room were probably just trying to survive in this bustling city too.
After the brief encounter with the little girl, I told myself that I would open my heart to help those who are less fortunate, so that no one would have to steal from others, and no child would need to stand in the winter cold. There were times I lost my temper, and there were times I lost hope, but I continued to believe in spite of what I saw, that by restoring the faith in myself, I could influence others too. I moved to the other side of the world with the same belief, and I hope to pass on kindness for as long as I’m living.
The little girl in the cold was a spark of fire that lit up my world. I became more appreciative of what I have and more understanding to the unexpected misfortunes that come my way. No matter how accomplished you become in life, remember that we live in an interdependent society. When you give your time or your help to others, you have gifted the best present to yourself.