On Sunday, we flew from Yiwu to Guangzhou to support my mother in an important Annual Gratitude ceremony for Tzu Chi. She had spent many months planning and we knew how much it would mean to her if we had showed up. Incidentally, one of our buyers was flying in that same night and we had work all day on Monday with her at the Fabric Trading Market.
Background: We have our manufacturing headquarters at Foshan, Guangdong. It’s a huge gated complex complete with our office space, factory space, warehouse, and dormitories for our 100+ employees. My father had donated a building within the complex around 3 years ago to the Tzu Chi Foundation. My mother is now leading the Tzu Chi Foshan chapter there. Yes, my parents are leaders. It is inspiring and intimidating at the same time. I try not to think about it and just picture them in their jammies farting around. Everyone farts. #truth
If you don’t know about Tzu Chi, then please do yourself a favor and read up now. My mom had been heavily involved in the Tzu Chi community ever since I can remember. The influence that this Buddhist Compassion Relief humanitarian organization had on her life and ours growing up is profound. It is only now that I can fully appreciate it for what its worth.
I remember as a TC kid visiting nursing homes performing sign language dance (yes…like Napolean Dynamite) in front of the elderly and panhandling outside Asian grocery markets post natural disasters. I hated that I had to wear braids and tucked my blue shirt in under unflattering white pants. Or giving up my weekends to pick up trash and litter in parks and dirty NJ beaches. Although I never really complained because at the time I was like “eh good for that college application…” I definitely didn’t understand or appreciate the extent of what little deeds did to the community and in the end did to my concept of meaningful compassionate action.
But then there was one summer when my mom’s high position and my continued involvement within the TC community had granted me the chance to go to Dominican Republic on a mission relief trip. I was in a group with other Tzu Shaos and we visited orphanages and saw the school that TC had built for them. Yes, they help build schools and hospitals too. Impressive right?
The vivid memory of giving candy to shoeless kids roaming streets filled with garbage. Just one piece so that there was enough for everybody. And them tugging me and asking for pencils and my heart breaking that I couldn't do more to help. TC planted the seeds of compassion, gratitude, and humility in my subconscious growing up. That’s for sure. I vowed to finish every grain of rice on my plate after that one trip.
This time upon seeing my mother fulfill her duties as Commissioner and actually acknowledging her value- how she is spending her time doing more meaningful things than what most “rich bored housewives” do, I shudder now with the upmost admiration. How she is dedicating her life to educating our staff at ODES and the people in Guangzhou about the principles of wisdom and compassion moves me now in a way that my privileged and entitled teenage TC self couldn't comprehend back then.
It starts with education after all. Subtle but powerful.
When I was in the hospital the second time post 3rd ankle surgery in Taiwan, my mother flew back from China to take care of me and to make sure that I really sat still. She said it wasn’t a matter of my body decomposing but it was a matter of my unsettled mind. I almost wanted to cleverly retort back how I had afterall contracted MRSA. But I knew she was right. Mother’s are always usually right.
She would try to preach about mindfulness and I would still lay in bed half ignoring her and feeling shame and regret for my actions… I just needed to go through my grieving and healing process in my own time.
True, everything should be in your own time. I definitely didn’t give my mom enough credit back then. But like I said.. there must be some true power in subtle preachings and aphorisms she’d chant. There must have been a reason why I came out of that hyperbaric oxygen therapy submarine tank when I did with that epiphany - how to bridge the gap of my uncertain future in the fashion accessory business with dad with values that my mom had subconsciously planted in my head long long ago. The concept of reMINDmebands was born.
700 people attended the ceremony event and surrounded the premises in our headquarters. All members that had grown over the last 3 years. I looked at everyone and tried to think about what their intentions were for the day. Why they came out of their way to attend the Annual Gratitude Ceremony? Did TC provide them relief in form of free rice/living necessities in the past? Was it out of moral obligation? Respect? Free lunch? In any case, 700 people made it. That’s a whole lot of people.
And I’m glad I was one of them.
My dad, Mel, and I signed a poster to make a vow to vegetarianism one day a week- Meatless Mondays.
My mom looked genuinely happy to see us and texted us later that we made her feel warm.
She inspires me in such great ways.
Simple actions, great love.