What a child remembers

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Days after he received the Nobel Prize for Literature,  Albert Camus wrote a letter to his elementary school teacher to thank him for the kindness shown him as a pupil. I was reminded of this letter today when I read this article.  (Link opens another tab.)

The letter in turn reminded me of one kind deed that my late aunt (my late uncle’s wife) showed me on my birthday when I was still 9 or 10 years old. I have many memories of my childhood, both sad and happy ones, but the memory of my aunt giving me money and kissing me on the cheek on my birthday because she said I looked so sad (and I was because my parents had nothing special to give me then!) is still as vivid in my mind as on the day it happened.
It seems to me a kindness shown a child remains in their memory long after they grow up and become adults themselves.

Camus’ gratitude, my own experience of remembering my aunt’s kindness and also reading the testimony of Dr. Herzenstube’s at the trial in The Brothers Karamazov, when he recounted how Dmitry as a grown man had stopped by his office to thank him for giving him (Dmitry), a pound of nuts when he was only a kid – these convince me that when you show a child kindness, they will never forget it and will remain grateful for it for the rest of their lives.

Some may say, this world can show many adults who had received kindness from their parents yet are ungrateful to them. Perhaps so, but the kindness or love from parents are to be expected because the parents had brought their children to this world. It is when the kindness is unexpected that the impact is stronger and therefore unforgettable.

Camus’ teacher was not family; Dr. Herzenstube was not family to Dmitry; my aunt was family, but not my parent, and she had her own 7 children! They did not have to do what they did; but they did it, and that’s what made the children who were recipient of their kindness, remember them well for, into their adult lives.
A child never forgets an unexpected act of kindness. Be kind to a child when you see one. You’ll never know when this child will show you his gratitude.
—-

Here is Camus’ letter to his elementary school teacher:

Dear Monsieur Germain,

I let the commotion around me these days subside a bit before speaking to you from the bottom of my heart. I have just been given far too great an honor, one I neither sought nor solicited. But when I heard the news, my first thought, after my mother, was of you. Without you, without the affectionate hand you extended to the small poor child that I was, without your teaching and example, none of all this would have happened. I don’t make too much of this sort of honor. But at least it gives me the opportunity to tell you what you have been and still are for me, and to assure you that your efforts, your work, and the generous heart you put into it still live in one of your little schoolboys who, despite the years, has never stopped being your grateful pupil. I embrace you with all my heart.

Albert Camus

Hope and Gratitude

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My last post wasn’t very optimistic, so despite my busy schedule, I am determined to write another one just to do my share of encouraging anyone who reads this, to have hope and to always look forward to seeing the light at the end of the tunnel; and more importantly, to cherish this time when you CAN stay at home and prepare your meals and/or sleep in instead of rushing to work without breakfast.

I, too, cherish this time when I can be with my son for a much longer time — we’ve been together since December 23rd when I came home, and then we left for China and stayed there for a little over 2  weeks, and then came back home on the 11th of January. My flight was cancelled three times; I rebooked 3 times. Finally a couple of days ago, I just asked for a refund.

With the “community quarantine” order in our city, classes have been cancelled; malls have been closed; public transportation, suspended. Thankfully, being at home all day has not really affected my 9-year old son that much. He has not gone to school or to his occupational and speech therapies for almost a month now, but simply having all of us at home — me, my two sisters and my 17-year-old nephew — is enough to make him happy. He does speaking, reading and writing  activities with my sister, and PE activities with my nephew. Having my sisters and nephew at home allows me to do my online teaching for the university. Though I am way busier now than if I were back in China teaching in a classroom, I am grateful for the time I get to spend with my son and be able to contribute to the progress he makes by reading to him, talking and playing with him.

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This is not the first pandemic the world has seen, and it probably wouldn’t be the last. But humanity survived previous pandemics when they did not have as much means to fight the enemy as we do now with advances in science and technology; when they did not have as easy a means to share information as we do now. I don’t think it is a false hope that we will overcome this one.

So believe that things will be better because they will. And in the meantime, focus on the many things you can do while stuck at home — because if you really look, you’ll find there are many tasks just waiting to be done that you have not been able to do because you had to go to work. Now is the time.

May you always find a reason to be hopeful and grateful.

 

 

The moon, the moon, the moon

For those who follow my blog, you’d probably notice I’ve posted several photos of the moon lately.

I love looking up at the sky and seeing a beautiful moon. And I thought people feel the same way I do, but one evening years ago walking with my best friend, I said, “Hey! Look at the moon! So beautiful!” And he said, “It’s just the moon. Come on!”

And then last night on my walk home from the office, taking these photos, two girls passed by and murmured, “What’s she taking pictures of?”

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I’m glad I see beauty in ordinary things and occurrences. I am thankful I can still see.

The soft moonlight makes things look gentler. It hides the ugliness visible in the daytime and makes them mysterious. Guy de Maupassant’s story Moonlight comes to mind.

May you see beauty around you. 💕

T

On Unlikely Friendships

Recently I was told by someone they couldn’t believe I am friends with one of my best friends when we are so different from each other. What did we talk about?

I wasn’t able to give an answer that satisfied them (they have asked me this at least twice), so I got to thinking , why indeed?

The answer really is, we have known each other for years, and in those years we have talked a lot about everything — politics, religion, philosophy, music, movies, our families, our work, our worries and fears, things and people we love and hate — I can’t think of anything we have not talked about.

Isn’t that how friendships are formed?

We become friends with people who may seem different from us at first, but when we spend time to get to know them and for them to know us, we find that underneath the unimportant differences, we have more in common in our hopes and dreams, joys and sadness — in our humanity.

All it takes is listening: we listen to them, and they listen to us.

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” — Aristotle

My three best friends and I may have very different temperaments, and we disagree with each other on so many things — but we respect each other’s views and accept each other as a friend with different views on things.

“A wise man gets more use from his enemies than a fool from his friends.” — Baltasar Gracian

What I am most grateful for in my friendship with my 3 best friends is that they all have taught me, at different periods in my life, something that I find valuable, useful.

Apart from my son, these three have helped shape me into the person that I am now — one that is still not perfect but one that I like and respect.

Wouldn’t you feel blessed to have such friends?

Have a peaceful weekend!

T.

Happiness is a letter E

Last week I ran into a co-worker who had not seen me in a while, and she asked me how I was doing and how my son was doing. She knows my son is on the spectrum, so when she asked me about my son, I excitedly told her I would show her something that shows my son’s progress. And she looked so eager waiting to see a picture of my son.

But when she finally saw what I had wanted to show her — the picture above, I saw the dramatic change in her facial expression — one of pity, which just made me laugh saying, “I know my happiness is too simple!”

At 8 years old, my son just learned how to trace the first letter of his name, E. I was ecstatic. My sisters were so excited. My husband was so moved. This picture of his first letter E kept me smiling for days. And when my co-worker saw me that day, I was still “high” from that letter E! LOL.

I fully understand why my co-worker felt sorry for me — she then talked about how there are good schools in other countries — but we see the progress in my son’s slow progress. And every progress is something that brings us happiness and are thankful for.

My son is fortunate to have teachers and therapists who have so much patience to teach him. He is blessed to have my sisters and my nephews who love him for who and what he is. And we are all blessed to have him who has taught us that happiness does not have to come from big, expensive stuff.

Happiness can come from a simple drawing of a letter E. ❤️

May you find happiness in simple things.

T.

Gratitude and Optimism

Yesterday I saw a video called “Life Lessons from 100-Year-Olds,” and it brought tears to my eyes. If you have time, watch it. I’m sure everyone can learn a thing or two from these centenarians.

I think it was fortuitous to have seen that video on the last day of the year, as it reminded me to look back at my own life during the past year (well, I am always looking back, lol)  and to count my blessings and be grateful even though 2018 saw me inwardly distraught about a number of things that I could not talk about with loved ones, as I do not want to spread negative vibes.

Today is the first day of 2019. I will try my very best to continue to be grateful and to believe that everything will be all right.

I hope you do as well.

Happy New Year!🎉💕

T.

On Pure Love

This post on love made me think, again, on whether or not there is such a thing as “pure” love.

My students, I would say 99% of them, say that a child has to be grateful to their parents for not abandoning them when they were babies, and that parental love is the only example of selfless love in the world. That sounds nice and all, but I just cannot accept this kind of thinking (though I don’t really argue with them on what they have been taught by their teachers and parents.)

First of all, if a couple decided to give birth to a baby, that baby is their responsibility — morally and legally. Having that baby was their choice. They just cannot change their minds after the baby is born that it’s not the kind of baby they wanted. It’s not like a badly-cooked Kung Pao Chicken that they can refuse to eat or not pay for after having ordered it. Should a child be grateful for not being abandoned? It would be thoughtful of him to be so, but I do not see it as necessary. After all, he did not ask his parents for the “favor” of being brought into this world.

Second, parents decide to have children FOR A REASON. And there are a variety of reasons from the most romantic to the most practical:

1. they want to prove their love for each other

2. they want to contribute something to this world

3. they want to continue the family line

4. they want someone they can care for and love

5. they want someone to take care of their wealth when they die

6. they want to have someone look after them in their old age

7. they want someone to bury them when they die.

There may be many more reasons, but all of them stem from a couple’s or a parent’s inherent desire to fulfil something that they themselves want.

So how can that love be truly “pure”?

As a parent, I love my son. He is my world, the reason why I try to stay healthy and not die yet. But I cannot say that I love him selflessly because that would be a lie. I love him not only because I am responsible for bringing him into this world but also because he makes me happy.

I think we, humans, are simply incapable of pure love, no matter how we try to make ourselves believe that we are. I wonder if one day, science will be able to make that happen for us. Perhaps by that time being “human” already means something else.

Week 9 Prompt: Insatiable

Insatiable

I met a man who lives in a cozy home

And doesn’t have to work

Because his family has enough money.

He’s lonely. And unhappy.

I met a woman who lives in a 3-story villa

With her two beautiful and smart children

And a moneyed husband who adores her.

But she says her life has no meaning

And she wants something more

Than just being mother and wife.

So she’s unhappy.

And the ones who labor day and night,

Careful not to waste a morsel of what’s on the table,

Can only think they’d be content and happy

If they had what these two have.

But…will they really?

Insatiable.

———-

In my life I have met so many unhappy people. Although I believe some of these people have no control over this feeling of unhappiness, most of them just choose not to be happy or content with what they have.

“’Yet let him keep the rest,

But keep them with repining restlessness;

Let him be rich and weary, that at least,

If goodness lead him not, yet weariness

May toss him to my breast.'”

— from The Pulley by George Herbert

It is perhaps human nature to be restless and to always want something more. But I think we CAN choose to be content and be grateful for what we have.

Hope you find something to be grateful for today!💕

T.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflecting 

Sunrise over Visayas, Philippines. I took this photo early this month on a trip back to Mindanao. 

It may sound cheesy but … the beauty of the sun reflected on the the ocean made me reflect on the beauty of nature. And I’m grateful for this beauty and for being able to witness and experience it. 

T. 
Weekly  Photo Challenge: Reflecting 

Mornings and Beginnings

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View from my balcony 

We recently moved to a new apartment, and I am quite happy to have moved. This year has been one of changes and challenges, and I’ve been able to cope with all these sometimes overwhelming challenges pretty well. For this I am grateful to my husband and my sisters for everything they do and are in my life. So moving to a new place is symbolic of a new beginning for me — life without my mother, and living apart from my beautiful son (for a few months.)

Now that  I only work 3 afternoons a week, and I do not have my son to look after, I can sit for a few minutes out on my balcony and wait for sunrise as I sip on my morning coffee. Then I go out for a walk  and come back to prepare hubby’s breakfast.

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View from my balcony

Each day, I am trying to be hopeful and look forward to better days. I know they will come.

Every morning is a promise of a new beginning.

Wishing you beautiful mornings and wonderful beginnings. 🙂

 

You’re special

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Dear Son,

You are special to me
Not in the same way
The world calls you special
Because you can’t speak
The way kids your age do,
You can’t throw a ball
Like most 5-year olds do
You can’t even catch one
Though we’ve tried to teach you
Over and over again.

You are special to me
But not in the same way
The world sees you
Because you flap your hands
Or jump a thousand times on the trampoline
Or recite your books from cover to cover
Instead of talking with people.

No, you’re special to me
Because I see what the world can’t see
How sweet your smile is
When I finish a line that you start to recite;
When you leave your toys
To run to me just to give me a hug;
When you snuggle close to me
Because you want to be kissed;
When you ask me to sing
Your favorite song
Or read your favorite book.

You are special to me
Not only for who or what you are,
But also because, in your simplicity,
You have taught me —
Patience and understanding,
Humility and gratitude.

And most all you taught me
Love that expects nothing in return

Save for that sweet, little smile
You give to me alone.

Thank you, Son.

Love,
Mom

Stop. Look. Listen. Feel. Be grateful. Move on. 

   

Sunset at Dalipuga, Iligan, Philippines 

One of my favorite poems that I can recite by heart is Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. I kept reciting this poem to my baby when I was still pregnant, and even after my son was born. HBO’s Classical Baby The Poetry Show includes a reading of this poem by Susan Sarandon, and it is now my 5-year old son’s favorite part of the video.

A thought came to mind today as I watched my son give me the sweetest smile when the video clip began. A few months after our son was diagnosed with Autism, my husband wished Eli would not grow so quickly. Today, only for a moment I wished Eli would never grow up, so people can excuse his strange stimming habits, his speech delay and other autistic traits. Every now and then  I worry about whether or not he will be able to live independently, when my husband and I won’t be around to look after him anymore.

Frost’s poem talks about how we, once in a while, encounter something that makes us wish could last at least a lifetime, but we all have other things to do — duties, responsibilities, roles to play in other people’s lives — so we have to move on, continue living our lives.

The speaker in this poem though was truly in the moment. He   noticed his surroundings: the snow-covered woods, the frozen lake; he heard the sound of the harness bells and the wind. He also used his imagination (“My little horse must think it queer…”), and was quite aware not only of the lack of danger (…He will not see me stopping here/ To watch his woods fill up with snow), but also of his responsibilities and of the life he had to live,   (But I have promises to keep/ And miles to go before I sleep/ And miles to go before I sleep.) 

Oftentimes I look at my son and wonder what life will be like for him. Will he ever be able to speak like a neurotypical person? Will he be able to read by himself the books that he loves for me to read to him? Will he be able to write down his own name?  But then I stop myself from doing this, and instead do things with him. Not much use wondering about the future when so much of it depends on the present.

What I liked most about Frost’s poem is the idea that though we can (and we should) live our lives — face our responsibilities, fulfill our duties, find our way in the darkness — we can stop once in a while and just enjoy what we have in our lives: food on our table, clothes to keep us warm (or cool), roof over our heads,  air we breathe, water we drink, family, friendship. And love. And faith that everything will be all right in the end.

Thank you. Salamat. 谢谢。

A time to weep and a time to laugh

  

   

I read something this morning as I was sitting on a bench facing the lake on campus. It said, “Being grateful protects you from negative thinking.” I read those words after shedding tears. Over life. 

I was, and still am, grateful for the time and place for quiet that I  had this morning. For two months I had neither, and I felt like I was drowning. 

Some people like to be around a lot of other people when they are going through a difficult time. I just need peace and quiet. And I finally had both this morning. 

I know that there is a time for everything. That the weeping will pass too. And that I will laugh again. I’m already grateful for that time. 

I can’t wait. 

Musing on mornings

Jimei has a beautiful campus. I walk to work around 7 in the morning four times a week, and each time, I walk slowly so I can enjoy the scenery.

I am a morning person. I get up at 4:30 in the morning most days and do my ritual of making coffee, reading the news, mopping the floor, doing a 20-minute workout, grabbing a bite, then taking a shower. If I miss one of those in the list, I get a little disoriented.

These days the morning air is so cool that when I open the kitchen window and hear the rustling of the leaves and the merry chirping of the birds, and feel the cool touch of the breeze on my face, I am reminded of two poems: one by Wordsworth and the other by Hopkins. (I’m serious. If you have ever been taught Poetry by a professor as poetic and romantic as Dr. Anthony L. Tan, and lived in a convent — trying to become a nun– for a few months, then you’ll understand my way of thinking.)

 

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Composed Upon Westminster Bridge 

By William Wordsworth

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth like a garment wear
The beauty of the morning: silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky,
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

 

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God’s Grandeur
Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

 

Even though I am no longer so certain about the existence of God, the beauty of the morning somehow brings back my sense of gratitude to the creator of such beauty, and since in my simple brain, there are no other candidates for that position, then let it be God for now.

Early morning, I find, is much more beautiful than night time. (Or is it just that I am getting old and can no longer appreciate the beauty of darkness where sweet words are whispered and gentle touches are felt?)

When I take an early morning walk, and see the dew on the leaves and feel the damp earth, and hear the birds sing, and smell the grass, I am always filled with that kind of bliss that makes one want to love the world and to desire to be a better person deserving of such wonder. For someone who has been waiting for death since she was 20, this is one of the very rare moments when I am actually happy about life, one of my Sisyphus-reaching-the-top-of-the-hill moments.

The awareness of the ephemerality of these moments is probably what makes people, like me,  appreciate them more.

Like everything else in this world, they come to an end, sometimes too soon, when I start hearing the honking of vehicles and seeing people push and shove each other to get on the bus to get to work.

But this is life. I am just grateful to know that there is time, when I need it, for nature to refresh me and make me ponder on how good it is to be alive.
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