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Beyond the actions

October 1, 2012

Though there is a smile on their face, behind, they are hurt. Though they work hard and look strong, behind, there were stories of struggles, fights for the better, despairs and standing-ups, and being strong for people they care for. I shall not judge how people act given I don’t know why they do certain things. I will try to love others regardless of how they treat me. And that’s what Jesus would do.

“The easiest thing to do is to lose touch with someone.”
People come and go, while relationships take time to build, especially between people who come from different background and culture, and speak different languages.
I won’t claim I know how they think and make decisions, what they like and dislike, and what they plan for their future. These things are precious secrets to these people I meet, shared only with those they come to know as trustworthy friends who really care. And this kind of friendship takes time to build.

Some people in my organization have these relationships. After months of not meeting with one another (due to people moving workplace, going home temporarily, etc), they will recognize us when we meet again. They often ask where such and such person is, they haven’t met for a while. They can see our sincerity, which is quite rare in the midst of fast-and-furious live here in the big mainland.

The hardest part for me is seeing good relationships that are about to take off, stop not long after. People movements are common; anyways they are migrants. They have come to work and earn money temporarily. The recent political tension in the country adds on top of that. I believe a majority of them have gone home now. I wonder, what their life is like back home, if they think about coming back to the city.

These days, everyone is worried about something. Some are on things they can’t control. Many worry on things they make on their own.
In the states, among us middle-class people, we worry about the broken plumbing, the dogs barking outside, the noise from the party next door, missing to watch the show this weekend. In China, way too many people are worried about being single, or getting married late. It’s a topic I have gotten used to have in conversations among colleagues. Early marriages, mostly parents-driven ones, cause many problems in this country. If they are married, they worry about providing for their children; or child I should say, with the one-child policy. This is a bigger problem in the small cities and villages as their jobs there don’t seem to be enough for a living and investing in education (not to mention that education is already undervalued). I don’t have any statistics, so I won’t say more. But as is true anywhere in the world, the need of money drives people to do anything. Families stay together or break apart because of money.

It has happened to me several times that I have only 10-20 rmb in my wallet, and I thought, today I’ll just have banana and jiao zi (dumplings). Then several days later, I’d go to an ATM and replenish myself with more.
Money management is more complicated for those who indeed have little money (not simply need to go to an ATM). A friend of mine postponed getting a 15-rmb haircut (~2.5 USD) several times, because she has no savings. When I asked why she did not try to save, she explained she had to help a few close friends. One of her friends was jobless, another needed money for something else.

Some teachers emphasize on how high a goal, how far one still needs to go to make an achievement, or even to get any acknowledgment from them. It’s kind of like saying, “If you don’t reach this far, you’re not in my standard.” But I emphasize on how much one can do in each small progress. For every doubt: “I don’t know it” or “I can’t do it”, there is a chance to say, “Yes, you can!” Every correct step is a chance to compliment. Every mistake is a chance to “Let’s try it again. Together?”

Two examples of the scariest things I heard in my English class are “What does ‘It is a book’ mean?” and “I don’t know how to write ‘name'”. But this does not discourage me. It got me to a lot of thinking though. Should I offer this student a one-to-one lesson to catch up. Should I talk to her privately and encourage her to continue with the class. Should I split the class. Should I take 5 minutes of everyone’s time for her.

~ ~ ~

Sometimes I wonder if what I do matters much. There is very little progress, in my eyes. Yes, God is working, He is in control, He knows where it is heading, He has a beautiful plan ahead of us. It is kind of like Chinese herbal medicine. It’s natural and healthy, but takes time to heal. A friend reminded me, “It’s not just learning what you teach that is important. Being able to speak English is one of the goals of the class, but that is not the only thing they take from you. They learn about your sincerity, sharing, working together, building confidence, learn that they are valued and able, that there are opportunities beyond what they knew in the past.”

When I see all the work that is yet to be done, everything that used to be important in my life matters less. Petty arguments with friends, what clothes to wear, what food to cook, what the next cool phone to own, .. you got it. These are of no value, compared to the needs I see.

Where Starfish Project stands now, is to provide opportunities for some people to earn a living, learn practical skills, and get education, and at the same time providing a safe home and loving environment for them to recover and grow. God has been faithful and is with us along the way. And He’s still working, to reach out for more lost children.

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