Written by Yijing Tsai and Christina Chang
Translated by Penny Liu
Edited by Ida Eva Zielinska
Tzu Chi volunteers strive to support and give back to the local community wherever they live. During the COVID-19 pandemic, giving masks to those in need is one way of doing so.
In Austin, on May 11, at around 1 PM, Tsang-Bin Wen, Jinyi Tsai, and Tzu-Pei Hsie set out to visit several businesses near MT Supermarket, the largest Central Texas Asian supermarket, located at the Chinatown Center, home to various Asian restaurants, shops, and service providers. They aimed to distribute masks to businesses that have supported Tzu Chi’s missions in the past, and they brought 12 packages to give away.
The three volunteers from Tzu Chi USA Southern Region’s Austin Service Center discovered that some establishments near the Chinatown Center had not reopened. Others expressed that they didn’t need any masks but wished that the supplies offered could be given to others who lacked them, which they were.
By the end of the afternoon, the three had successfully distributed eight packages, in the process, encouraging everyone to stay calm, and offering moral support to help warm their anxious hearts.
The Vietnamese owner of Fresh Tofu, a cafeteria style food-to-go cafe, has supported Tzu Chi for many years. She was thrilled to see the volunteers as they arrived and immediately gave them two bamboo banks filled to the brim with tips from customers to support Tzu Chi’s missions.
The volunteers explained that they were there to deliver masks so everyone can be safe and well during the pandemic. The owner thanked them warmly then insisted on giving them some green bean pastries. The volunteers were touched, deeply aware of the heartfelt connection that had formed over the years. The owner would always add a handful of money whenever they came to pick up a bamboo bank in the past.
Given the owner’s compassionate and thoughtful nature, she had kept her store open during the pandemic, so her customers could still enjoy a freshly cooked meal. The volunteers thanked her for the gift of pastries and wished her all the best, grateful that they could offer their love and support at this challenging time.
Their next stop was Pho Saigon Noodle House, a Vietnamese restaurant. The owner joyfully accepted the masks and gathered everyone together to take a group photo. Her mother-in-law, who is Taiwanese, was also there and chatted with the volunteers like old friends, then brought the bamboo banks they had at the restaurant, collecting donations. Everyone encouraged and blessed each other, giving rise to wonderfully warm feelings.
Staff at restaurants who serve the general public are actually at high risk during the pandemic, so the masks donated by Tzu Chi USA’s Austin Service Center will help lessen their worries, as well as those of the patrons who hope to enjoy a good meal safely. The volunteers were grateful that they could bring some relief to this establishment.
Hair, beauty and nail salons had also begun to reopen in Austin, and staff are at high risk at such businesses too. The owner of one establishment said that her customers were happy to finally get their hair done while she was relieved to resume earning income. And, she could not hide her happiness about receiving a donation of masks from Tzu Chi USA.
Working Together to Fight the Pandemic
It’s essential to work together to fight the pandemic. Tzu Chi USA’s Austin Service Center volunteers had been visiting many of these businesses regularly, to place or pick up bamboo banks that collect donations for Tzu Chi’s missions. With these gifts of masks, they could give back, helping to safeguard the community’s health and well-being.
We all belong to a community and can do well by extending that sense of connection to our cities, states, and the country at large. During this troubled time, with the pandemic showing itself to be resistant to our collective attempts to bring it entirely under control, we must do so. We are all in this together, so let’s share our love.