So, how far do you go?
On New Year’s Day, Grandpa Zhou asked me something that made me think. “Are you going to buy food for me every Tuesday and Saturday?”
It stunned me. For a moment, I thought he was trying to pin me down, take advantage of me like so many people had warned me before. Then he said, “Tell me a time I can wait for you till before I know you won’t be coming because I’m just afraid sometimes I might have bought food for myself already, then I’ll be too full to accept yours if you do come.”
It made me think. How long do I intend to keep up with this, and how far am I willing to go? We’re going to see the doctor next Tuesday. Then what?
What on earth does it mean to love others deeply, the way God loves us? It is easy to love Strangers as a one-time effort- but for life? For every mile one goes for a Stranger, one should then be willing to go twice the mile for one’s family. Is it possible?
How far do you go? There’s only this much time and energy a mortal person has- how does one divide it and how far is too far?
It was my father’s 58th birthday yesterday. On my way home from the library, I thought of buying a cake. Mum and dad said not to though, as one of Dad’s clients would be delivering a good one this weekend. Yes, okay, forget about cake- Dad’s not really a birthday kind of person anyway… … Maybe I’ll draw him a card. Argh, exam in a few days and I’m short of time… Maybe I’ll buy one… it’s more convenient…
But Dad likes it when I draw him cards… …
And what’s a birthday without cake?
At that moment, my mind cleared- you do what love propels you to do. There is always an excuse, but Love is not convenient. Often, it is inconvenient.
Walking home from the train station, I see Grandpa Zhou huddled at a corner. It’s Thursday, he shouldn’t be here… I stop in my tracks. Aw man, if I stop to talk to him, he’ll expect me to buy him dinner… No, I shall resolve not to buy him dinner tonight. I resolve not to- I can’t be doing this forever, I don’t want him to be over-reliant on me. No, I will not, I will go home and celebrate Dad’s birthday. I can only take care of one old man per night so that’s that. I will say hi to Grandpa Zhou and then I will go home. I will buy him dinner on Saturday. YES.
Love is inconvenient. God never asked much from us, He only asked for us to love people as much as He loved us. How far do we go?
I reach home. And then I leave home again as soon as I reach it. This time, I resolve to buy Grandpa Zhou dinner, and there is a lightness in my heart.
He is surprised to see me. “You’re back! With food…! You really shouldn’t have ya…” I explain I cannot stay to chat this time as I’ll be having dinner with my family soon. But I ask him about the sandalwood oil and few sachets of chamomile tea I had given to him on new year’s day to help him with his insomnia, and chat for a while. I tell him we will go to the clinic on Tuesday night when it’s open.
“ Ni… ni hen you ai xin. Wo zhu ni xin xiang shi cheng, zhu ni cheng gong…( You… you have a kind heart. I wish you the very best for your future, that you may succeed in all things you do.)”
I don’t know what to say so I just smile. I wonder to myself how far I will go to love this old man, and mine back home, my own father.
“The oil and tea you gave me, it’s very expensive no?”
I chuckle. I wonder about the relativity of price. I don’t think he’s seen Crabtree and Evelyn teabags before.
At home, I surprise my two folks with two mini-cakes I have bought. It is a good, cosy celebration. Dad isn’t usually very expressive but this time, he says to me, “ Thanks for your special effort. I feel really good today.”
Those words mean a lot to me.
Just before he goes upstairs to his room, I give him a card I draw. Opening it, I watch him, grey with age, smiling the smile I only ever see twice a year. “ You drew this!” He is laughing by now at the picture I drew, laughing a laugh that I would not hear had I bought a ready-made card. Going up the stairs he says in an odd sing-song, “I am the happiest man in the world today, haha, Your old man… the happiest man in the world ha… …”
Two old men. Two different distances.
How far do we go? How far.
When I saw the smile on both their faces, all at once, it became clear.
We go as far as we want to- that far.