By all accounts, personal and general, one could say that this has been a bad year. For some reason, I saw fit to snap my leg while on a hike, which resulted in emergency surgery 5 days before boarding a plane back to China, in February. It took me nearly all year to heal. Meanwhile, the trickle that had been Syrian refugees early in the year turned into a flood because of escalating violence in their homeland. ISIS further claimed responsibility for an attack in Paris and again in San Bernadino, California.
The ChinaDaily blog server – where I contribute in addition to our own blog - was hacked; all articles, comments and commendations were lost. Working with that site became an exercise in frustration: comments wouldn't post, pages couldn't be accessed... fortunately, ChinaDaily techs were hard at work, retrieving articles thought lost forever. I didn't give up hope on that community but...
Right around that time the fall semester started and, because my colleague had been arrested and deported (see The Man With A Plan entry, posted September of this year), I soon became overwhelmed, teaching several classes per day – a far departure from the previous semester, when I only had 3 classes per week. Because I was so busy, and focused on nothing but teaching, I didn't write anything for several months.
Fortunately, by the time that classroom madness started my leg had healed sufficiently to manage the rigors of standing for hours a day and climbing stairs to get to my rooms. However, only last week did I get a clean bill of health: the doctor declared it completely healed. You can't imagine the amount of pain killers I swallowed just to keep up with myself these past months!
Taking a broader view of thing: tempers and fear flared around the world because of terrorism: 374 attacks worldwide this year alone (source: Wikipedia)
We only heard about the big ones: Bankok, Paris, California but, it seems from the statistics that every day, somewhere, people were running for their lives. Rest in Peace to those who didn't get away, who were caught up in someone else's madness and suffered for it.
Let's not forget those who perished in plane crashes, because of bad weather, at the hands of others in non-terrorist acts and those who, by their own hand ended their suffering. They should rest in peace, too.
Yes, by any reckoning, one could say that this has indeed been a rough year, all around. What made it golden for me was the kindness shown, both personally and worldwide during this difficult year.
European countries are risking their economies sheltering refugees. All over the world, people grieved for those slain during the various terrorist attacks – at least, those reported in the news. We shared a frisson of fear at their possible escalation. In these terrible times, we united in care and sympathy for everyone who needed succor, whether we, personally could do anything to help or not.
As for me, kindness and care enveloped me like a gentle blanket throughout the year. Starting with family, who cared for me during and immediately after my hospital stay. And then, the flight crew who ministered to me when I threw up on the plane – one of them, apparently moved by my pitiful condition, offered a 'fu' 符 for good luck after helping me clean up. I guess he thought I needed it? And, all of those devoted people pushing my wheelchair-bound self through the airport in Beijing and Wuhan, even offering bathroom stops along the way. After having been left stranded in LAX, where no one would so much as bring me any food, let alone permit me to stay in a wheelchair (the aide stated she had to take her chair with her, leaving me on a bench in front of the deserted Air China counter with my luggage, a broken leg and a pair of crutches), the charity and support offered in China caused me to spill tears of relief at feeling no longer alone and helpless.
And Sam, who met me at the airport! Not only did he arrange a replacement ticket for the plane I missed in Los Angeles (because of uncoordinated efforts of the handicapped assistance team, along with the less-than-urgent disposition of those pushing my wheelchair), but he accompanied me home and stayed 2 hours, seeing to my comfort, preparing something to eat (I'd not eaten the whole flight because of my upset stomach), arranging my sleeper sofa so that I'd have an easier time settling in. And all of this when he should have been with his family, celebrating Spring Festival! Sam deserves a medal for the valor he displayed. What he and his family have done for me this year goes far beyond kindness. I can never thank them enough.
The list goes on...
The dean rearranging all of my classroom assignments to the first floor of the teaching building nearest my house in the aftermath of my leg-break so I wouldn't have to hobble so far or attempt the stairs. Teachers with cars, chauffering me to and from class. Students helping carry my things whilst I crutched to and from class.
Friends who drove me to the store, and then carried my groceries into my house, and put them away for me. Friends who saw to it that I had a measure of entertainment, inviting me on outings, even though I would slow down the fun with my crippled gait. Friends who made the trip to my remote outpost in Wuhan for a visit. Friends on the ChinaDaily blog site who, worried at my long absence, sent concerned messages.
And, from total strangers:
The bus driver who, noticing my pronounced limp while walking to the bus, took special pains to see that I was settled before leaving the bus stop. The policeman who, seeing that I couldn't make it across the street before the light turned red, stopped traffic to ensure my safe passage. My neighbors who, knowing I was incapacitated, took it upon themselves to bring me fresh veggies, and never accepted payment (but I did manage to sneak in a gift or 2).
If I should expound on year 2015 in the future, it will be kindness that I will remember best. The old man on the bus who insisted I take his seat, even though he was bowed with age. Those who ran to help in the aftermath of the Bankok and Paris attacks. Those who took in refugees at the risk of collapsing their own economies.
As though to underscore the kindness theme of this year: the dear soul who, seeing my bike chained to the bus stop one day when the weather turned foul, worried that my seat might get wet, and so placed a plastic-wrapped mouse pad on it, to keep it dry. S/He even went so far as to tuck it between the seat and the pole it was chained to, so that the cover would not blow off in the sudden storm. That person had no idea who that bike belonged to so I can't say that his/her actions were kindness directed specifically at me. I can only infer that that person just brimmed with a desire to do good, and so committed a small, thoughtful act that touched my heart.
Oh, if everyone could be that good!!!