Here’s a happy little story.
Last Thursday I flew down to Guangzhou to give a speech and stayed an extra day to speak to some professors from Sun Yat-Sun University.
I was enjoying a late lunch at an open air café on campus when the heaven leaked. It does rain a lot in Guangzhou. At first, I thought this was rather fun as I listened to the big rain drops pitta-pattaed against the massive umbrella and my temporary refuge. But the rain persisted. I had a busy afternoon and couldn’t just sit there rain-spotting for the whole afternoon.
I asked the restaurant if you got any large plastic bag. They gave me a tiny one which I fashioned a hat of some sort. Then I spotted a sizable water cooler covered in plastic. ‘May I use this,” I pointed at the plastic. “Sure,” the waiter replied, “help yourself.”
Holding up the plastic sheet, I charged into the curtain of rain. A hundred meters down the road – about half way back to my hotel – I heard someone shouting behind me: “lady, lady, I have an umbrella for you.” I turned around and saw a young girl getting off her bike. She was wearing a rain coat and had an umbrella installed in the front of her bike, the way many locals do, against the sun and the rain. She then started to unscrew the umbrella. I was so surprised and touched. “Wait, I am nearly there,” I pointed at the hotel.
“Keep it. You might need it later,” she said.
Of course, it’d be so handy to have an umbrella. I took over this little item in need, full of gratitude.
“Thank you ever so much. May I buy this from you,” I offered, a little awkwardly.
“No need,” came her reply, matter-of-factly. She turned around her bike and readied herself to get back on: obviously she had spotted me struggling in the rain, looking ridiculous with my plastic bag hat, and turned around to chase me just to come to my rescue.
“Please, at least tell me your name,” I asked.
“My surname is Zheng,” sensing my unease, she added: “Don’t worry. No big deal. I work here.” Then she’s gone.
I stood in the pouring rain, watching her disappear along the tree-lined road, my heart filled with a warm feeling. Come to think about it, kindness towards a stranger is an act of true kindness.
At the hotel, I asked if the receptionist has heard of a young girl surnamed Zheng working here. She thought about it and asked: “What does she look like? Short hair, long hair?”
I couldn’t descript what the girl look like as her face was partially covered by the hood of the rain coat. “She is just the loveliest girl,” I muttered.
About two years ago, I wrote a commentary piece for the Guardian about China’s moral decline, inspired by the tragic story of little Yueyue who was run over many times and ignored by 17 passers-by. That chilling incident took place in Foshan, also in Southern China. I am still concerned by the moral issue in today’s China. Because of this sorry statue, I particularly appreciate the kindness such as I received on the rainy day.
For the rest of the day, I told everyone about this heart-warming story. And I made a point that I shall show kindness towards other strangers too. It should be a good way to repay Miss Zheng’s generosity.