Compassion: By Jesse Zhou
I’ve always thought of my grandma as inferior. She can’t read or write, and doesn’t understand deep concepts, not because she wasn’t educated well, but because she never got the chance to learn. My grandma was born during a time when girls weren’t allowed to educated in China, and furthermore, she was born to a farm family; her obligation was to the family and the field.
So yes, as bad as it sounds, I confess that I’ve always thought of my grandma as stupid. Of course I love her, but I treated her like a little kid for most of my life because I thought she didn’t understand me… I thought she was incapable of understanding me.
When I went to China during December of 2011, my point of view of my grandmother totally changed though. I was told a story that I would never forget.
It starts with the person in the picture, who is my adopted cousin. He may not look like much; he’s wearing a military outfit and a old sweater, and combined with his clunky sneakers and bright blue sweatpants, he just looks like a mismatched Chinese guy of no significance from afar. But what sets him apart from many people in my family is that he is Autistic.
Now, although I don’t understand a lot of Chinese, I could tell he was different. He was asking simple things, and he didn’t talk a lot to his American cousins; he only stared and gave a really toothy smile most of the time. I wondered a lot about him while we were going back to the hotel, and I asked my dad how he came to be a part of our family. My dad answered with this:
“Your cousin was alone when he was born. His mother died of illness, and his father had to work every day to take care of him. Most of the time he was left alone because his father couldn’t do anything else; it nearly killed him to see his son being left in such a way. When his father brought his son to the doctor one day, he was told that his son had Autism. His father asked him if the doctor could “fix it”, the doctor said no; he didn’t want to waste the medicine on someone who wouldn’t get better anyway.
Your cousin’s father didn’t know what to do, and he cried. He cried because he was hungry, his son was hungry, and they were dying. Just when his dad was about to abandon your cousin on the street, your grandma (my mother) came by and helped out. She breastfed the poor boy with her own body, and gave them both enough to eat, despite the fact she still had all of us at home to feed [my dad was born with a lot of siblings].
Even when your grandma was not obligated to, she saved that boy’s life. Anyone, even someone like your grandma who never read of love or sympathy in a book, knows of compassion… Don’t forget it.”
I share this story because of how my cousin was treated; even if he is Autistic, he shouldn’t be thought of a waste just because of his condition. It’s troublesome that a lot of people think like this today… Too many people ridicule people who have conditions, rather than helping them out for the better. I also share this story because of what my dad said: Anyone inherently knows how to show compassion. Anyone.
Grandma, I’m sorry for treating you badly… I hope I can be a compassionate grandson one day. I’ll leave it at that.