i have always found the chinese to be a very gracious people. in particular, chinese frequently compliment foreign friends on their language skills,knowledge of chinese culture, professional accomplishments, and personal health.curiously, however, chinese are as loath to accept a complimentas they are eager to give one.
as many of my chinese friends have explained,this is a manifestation of the chinese virtue of modesty. i have noticed a difference, though, in the degree to which modesty is emphasized in the united states and china. in the us, we tend to place more emphasis on “seeking the truth from fact;” thus, americans tend to accept a compliment with gratitude. chinese, on the other hand, tend to reject the compliment, even when they know they deserve the credit or recognition which has been awarded them. i can imagine a chinese basketball fan meeting michael jordan of the chicago bulls. he might say, “mr. jordan, i am so happy to meet you. i just want to tell you, you are the best basketball player in the world; you’re the greatest!” to which jordan would probably respond, “thank you very much. i really appreciate it! i just do try to do my best every time i step on the court.” if an american met deng yaping, china’s premier pingpong player, he might say much the same thing: “ms. deng, you’re the best!” but as a chinese, deng would probably say, “no, i really don’t play all that well. you’re too much kind.” plainly, americans and chinese have different ways of responding to praise. ironically, many americans might consider ms. deng’s hypothetical response the less modest, because it is less truthful — and therefore less sincere. americans generally place sincerity above etiquette; genuine gratitude for the praise serves as a substitute for protestations of modesty. after all, in the words of one of my closest chinese friends, modesty taken to the extreme is arrogance.
One family, which had emigrated from Japan and settled at the turn of the century near San Francisco, had established a business in which they grew roses and trucked them into San Francisco three mornings a week. The other family was a naturalized family from Switzerland who also marketed roses, and both families became modestly successful, as their roses were known in the markets of San Francisco for their long vase-life. For almost four decades the two families were neighbors, and the sons took over the farms, but then on December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Although the rest of the family members were Americans, the father of the Japanese family had never been naturalized. As they planned to leave the country, his neighbor made it clear that, if necessary, he would look after his friend's nursery. It was something each family had learned in church: Love thy neighbor as thyself.“You would do the same for us,” he told his Japanese friend. It was not long before the Japanese family was transported to a barren landscape in Canada. A full year went by. Then two. Then three. While the Japanese neighbors were in Canada, their friends worked in the greenhouses, the children worked before school and on Saturdays, and the father's work often stretched to 16 and 17 hours a day. And then one day, when the war in Europe had ended, the Japanese family packed up and boarded a train. They were going home. What would they find? The family was met at the train station by their neighbors, and when they got to their home, the whole Japanese family stared. There was the nursery, intact, scrubbed and shining in the sunlight — neat, prosperous and healthy. And the house was just as clean and welcoming as the nursery. And there on the dining room was one perfect red rosebud, just waiting to unfold — the gift of one neighbor to another.
Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room’s only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back. Every afternoon when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window. The man in the other bed began to live for those onehour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside. The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color of the rainbow. Grand old trees graced the landscape, and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance. As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene. Days and weeks passed. One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. When all was arranged, the other asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse made the switch. Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the world outside. Finally, he would have the joy of seeing it for himself. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed. It faced a blank wall. The nurse said: “Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.”
I sat in the comfortof my grandparents’ house, enjoying the rain and the “Cat Concerto” episode of Tom and Jerry with my grandfather.
Munching on one of my grandmother’s fresh, scrumptious rotis, I saw a monkey suddenly swing onto the bars on our door.
My grandfather encouraged me to offer it my roti; it gently accepted the gift.
Peering in, my new friend stared with interest at the TV.
The curious monkey, my grandfather, and I watched the rest of Tom and Jerry’s adventure together, astonished at the harmony that exists between humans and animals in our world.