慈濟傳播人文志業基金會
Love and Care in Action

 

A sculpture of the Great Compassion Guan Yin Bodhi­sattva—a being that compassionately refrains from entering nirvana in order to help all living beings attain buddhahood

Sun Weili (孫薇麗), a colleague of mine at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is so devoted to her work that she seldom takes any days off. Her impressive record was finally broken a few weeks ago when she took a few days off following a long weekend. I finally bumped into her in the hallway of our office a few days ago.

“Hey, you’ve seemed quite ‘busy’ recently. What’s up?” I asked.

She replied, “My son, Qiu Zhengbiao [邱正標], had to have an operation. My husband and I took turns staying home from work to look after him.” She then remarked how grateful and sweet her son had always been ever since he was a kid. The 16-year-old was self-disciplined and well-behaved, never created any trouble for the family, and brought nothing home from school but honors and good grades.

“Right before the operation, he even apologized for causing so much trouble for me and my husband,” Weili said with tears glistening in her eyes.

I could tell just how proud she was of her son. However, this heartwarming scenario reminded me of a less pleasant episode a few months ago when a frustrated mother, May, approached our office for help. Her daughter Beatrice, 26, who was living in Los Angeles, was mentally ill. May asked helplessly if our diplomats based in LA could help her.

It turned out that May and her husband, Robert, a successful businessman, decided over 13 years ago to send Beatrice to live with her aunt in New York City. They were happy to spend a great deal of the money that they had painstakingly earned on Beatrice, hoping she could achieve something great after receiving a quality education and growing up in the cultural and financial capital of the world. To their dismay, the colorful American dream they had hoped for became a nightmare.

Inexperienced and timid, Beatrice became a target for attacks by some ferocious classmates and companions in the U.S. Ironically, most of these bullies were from Asian nations, including Taiwan, whereas non-Asian people seemed indifferent toward her and left her alone. This unpleasant experience caused Beatrice to develop a strong mistrust of Asian people, especially Taiwanese. She began to display symptoms of paranoia, constantly suspecting that the people around her wanted to hurt her. Suspicious and defensive, she gradually became unpopular among her schoolmates and friends. Unable to deal with the pressure and setbacks over the years, she finally dropped out of college.

Seeing Beatrice’s mental problems, her parents tried very hard to persuade her to come back to Taiwan for treatment, but she always turned a cold shoulder. Twice she even threw away airplane tickets her father sent her from Taiwan. Her mother also took action to soothe Beatrice by flying to Los Angeles to visit her every now and then. Still, May told me with tears welling up in her eyes, her efforts to bring her daughter back home were in vain.

After mulling over her situation, I introduced May to Antony Ho (何敏滄), a Tzu Chi volunteer in Kaohsiung, and he helped forward the case to the Tzu Chi Los Angeles chapter. Volunteers there tried many times to talk to Beatrice, but they failed their mission of offering help—she simply refused to be helped by any Taiwanese. However, they’ve kindly promised to stay in touch with her and to forward her case to other American charity organizations when appropriate. Beatrice’s stubbornness reminded me of a well-known Buddhist saying: “Even the Buddha can only help those who are fond of him.”

Pondering these two scenarios, I can tell just how important it is to take action quickly to help those in need. Weili and her husband immediately took action to help their son by taking time off from work to take care of him. The feedback that Zhengbiao gave was positive and touching. The concept of providing prompt aid can also be applied to Beatrice’s case. Although she seems unwilling to accept any help from her parents and Tzu Chi, she can more or less perceive their loving kindness and may eventually change her mind as time goes by. After all, love conquers everything!

Summer 2017