We still have a couple of weeks to go before what we call the First Day of Summer on Chinese calendar, but we have already had four consecutive “summer days” (days on which temperature exceeds 25 °C or 77 °F during daytime) in my town! It was only a week ago that we had a cold and rainy weekend (and made me catch a nasty cold), so I am having a tough time adjusting to the weather.
One of the things I pay close attention during this time of the year is what I eat. I tend to lose appetite when it gets hot and my diet leans heavily over to cold noodles and ice creams… hardly nutritious, I know, but these are all my stomach can take. So, I consciously try not to start eating them too early in the year and fall into a state of malnutrition before autumn comes.
But my co-workers do not know of my dire need to keep my diet under control – they only know from past years working with me that all I eat are cold noodles and ice creams on hot days. So, as kind people as they are, they start to worry about my condition as soon as we begin to hear the word “summer” in the news. And as kind people as they are, they have taken me out to cold noodle lunches and brought back ice creams as treats from their off-site meetings in each of the four consecutive “summer days.”
And each time they have done so, all I could say was “oh, you’re too kind, REALLY!!” with very awkward smiles. I mean, what else could I say to these super-kind people who have gone out of their ways to make me feel better, even if I did not really wish for any of it?
Maybe it is a virtue to be kind to others, in any culture.
And maybe the way to show it in my culture is to act on what is thought to be the wishes of others, without being asked to.
But maybe kindness also includes not burdening the persons receiving the kind deeds with the guilty feeling of not being able to fully appreciate their kindness because wishes remain unfulfilled.
Maybe I would have found them to be super-duper-kind had they simply asked me “do you want to go get some cold noodles and ice creams?”
Then, maybe I could have said “oh, it’s very kind of you, but maybe a bit later” with a big smile from the bottom of my heart.
I know I sound quite ungrateful, but after all these years, I still cannot appreciate the kindness my people show me. I just keep thinking that there is a difference between being thoughtful of others and thinking on behalf of them – I find the former to be true kindness, but the latter to really be (especially in my culture) denial of individuality. Maybe it is a fine line, but a very vivid one, especially to someone like me who was brought up in a culture that places great importance on individualism.
But how do I tell this to my kind co-workers without offending them? Maybe I can show my utmost kindness by saying “it’s the thought that counts, REALLY!” and quickly switch over to thinking about what to do with my grave craving for cold noodles and ice creams that has already started to grow in me so early in the year.
Maybe, as kind people as they are, they will kindly think “oh, diet must be a more urgent matter to handle than being a darling to us right now.”
I think that will be most nutritious for me… much more than cold noodles and ice creams, REALLY!