Written by Yuqi Chen
Translated by Linda Chen
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto
After the 2020 spring break and the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the US, students had to contend with massive changes to the way they learn, study, work, and communicate with one another as a whole. With limited social interaction, students spend increased time in their dorms, and even extracurricular activities have been shifted online. Many students, however, have understood just how difficult it will be to overcome the global pandemic, and therefore, have endeavored to find balance amid the new normal.
Embracing Care and Positivity
The fears brought forth by the virus generated myriad reactions and responses from different people. During this profoundly challenging time, members of Atlanta’s Tzu Ching vowed to share the happiness in their lives through a WeChat group and monthly meetings to keep each other’s spirits high. Master Cheng Yen’s Jing Si Aphorisms, too, are an important guiding light for these students. The students are deeply grateful as well for the love of their advisors, Annie Sun and Charlie Sun. Their caring words and actions are a constant source of support in times of loneliness born of being away from their hometown, and they also inspired the students to pass on their love to warm the hearts of the elderly members of their community.
Working Together to Deliver Warmth
Master Cheng Yen once said that “Being safe and well is a real blessing, and helping others is a mark of wisdom.” Hoping to demonstrate the message of love imbued in this aphorism, members of Atlanta’s Tzu Ching organized an event to write thoughtful Christmas cards for the elderly residents from the Cai Hong Senior Center. Although Tzu Ching members could not visit the seniors, their care for the residents still endures. Therefore, six Tzu Ching members from Emory, Georgia Tech, and Georgia State University, gathered at Jiahao Wu’s home to write 140 birthday cards and Christmas cards.
Before starting to write out the cards, Annie and Charlie prepared a detailed name list of the elderly residents from the senior center and prepared various snacks. Annie and Charlie always strive to be good role models for the students, putting their whole heart into each task they set out to accomplish.
Writing to Elders as if They Were Their Own Grandparents
The students began writing at 11 AM on December 15th. In the beginning, they didn’t expect such a huge workload. However, after 3 to 4 hours, they hadn’t finished even half of the 140 cards. Each Tzu Ching member was also adamant that they fill up the entire space inside the card, making sure each message was both unique and heartfelt. They sincerely wished to ensure the recipients could feel the care in their messages, so that even if they did not have grandchildren of their own to write to them, these cards would certainly ensure they know that they are loved.
It is just as Master Cheng Yen said: “If we work with a joyful heart, no matter how tiring and demanding the task is, we will be rewarded with a sense of bliss and joy.” A Tzu Ching member named Minyue Liang wrote the English blessings, each and every word imbued with care. Zhouxin Zuo wrote helpful advice for upholding one’s wellness. Anting Chen was also dedicated to making the cards just as visually appealing as they were meaningful, and brought colored pens to decorate the cards.
“Anting applied her artistic talents really well,” said Jiahao Wu. “She painted colorful Christmas trees and wreaths on the cards, and her work is so enjoyable to watch!” Jiahao Wu and Weiqi Zheng worked tirelessly to write out the cards as well. The Tzu Ching members each encouraged and supported each other during their special task.
With a solid team effort, all 140 cards were adorned with individualized and neatly handwritten messages on time. “I enjoy writing cards to other people, but for the first time, I struggled to think of card content. After all, writing original blessings for a few cards is easy, but for 20 cards is much harder. I didn’t expect writing cards to be a time and creativity consuming activity. We started off at 11 AM and finished at nearly 11 PM.” Anting Chen continued to reflect upon the experience, saying, “We hope that when receiving our cards, the elderly could feel the sincere hearts of Atlanta’s Tzu Ching members. We hope these events could connect people who were far apart after the pandemic, and we want to let the elderly feel love in this cold winter.”
Master Cheng Yen has also said that “When we care for others with deep sincerity, a heart of love is the noble seed that brings great blessings.” The students, therefore, wanted their cards to bring warmth and care, and not only included their heartfelt blessings, but caring reminders to eat well, drink plenty of water, and try to get enough rest. After working together for a whole day, the Tzu Ching members felt far more connected to each other.
“Making every card unique and creative is difficult, so we spent a lot more time making them than we expected,” said Zhouxin Zuo. “But in this process, we also gained great experience. This event helped us to know more about the grandmas and grandpas, it also let us think deeply about the meaning behind the action of writing a card. It was a great team-building event for us Tzu Ching as well.”
Kindness for Others Benefits Oneself
During short breaks from writing, the students ate delicious food prepared by Annie while learning more about one other. Whenever someone raised concerns or spoke about difficulties they experienced due to the pandemic, the others would encourage them and provide friendly advice. It nourished a sense among the students that Tzu Ching truly is a group with so much love and positive energy. They gathered to write cards to make the elderly residents happy, but also unexpectedly fostered a deep and sincere friendship among themselves.
“The Tzu Ching members haven’t gathered together for half a year,” said Zhouxin Zuo. “This event was a really valuable experience for us because we got a chance to form stronger bonds and to understand each other more.”
Another Jing Si Aphorism from Dharma Master Cheng Yen that stuck with the students is that “We must first love others to have a beautiful life.” Indeed, we all want a wonderful life, and members of Tzu Ching are confident that Tzu Chi’s gentle care and perseverance provides a meaningful platform to learn not only gratitude, but to learn how to love and help more people. The students feel fortunate to have joined the Tzu Chi community while in college, where they can serve others and cultivate good character at the same time. Atlanta’s Tzu Ching members are sincere in their hopes that the elderly residents from the Cai Hong Senior Center will enjoy their cards, and that their spirits will be lifted by their love and care during this challenging time.