Tzu Chi Midwest Region’s Lunar New Year Prayer Meeting Started the New Year With Gratitude and Hope

Midwest  |  February 28, 2023
Mayor of Woodridge,
Woodridge Mayor Gina Cunningham (right) shows off a pillow given to the Tzu Chi volunteers by the mother of a family affected by the Woodridge tornado. The mother made the pillow from her son's clothes. On the left is Amy Hsieh, Tzu Chi Midwest Region’s Deputy Executive Director. Photo/Dennis Lee

Written by Zhi Ren Zheng
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Patrick McShane

Before dawn, at 6:30 a.m., on January 22, 2023, volunteers arrived at the Tzu Chi Midwest Region office to begin preparations for the annual Lunar New Year prayer meeting. They shoveled snow on the sidewalk outside the office so that guests could enter safely, and decorated the hall. One volunteer, Xiufeng Lin, drove over five hours from Detroit, Michigan, to the Tzu Chi Midwest Region Office to participate in the event. It took longer than usual because of snowy road conditions, but she was not going to miss the meeting. She brought 200 handmade pineapple cakes to share with everyone. According to her, the baking process was delayed due to a power outage, but fortunately, she was able to finish when the power returned and she brought them to Chicago for everyone to enjoy.

From a Disaster Comes Hope and Fellowship

Last year, 2022, was a challenging year for many in the Midwest. The lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic were still deeply felt, and extreme weather led to devastating disasters across the region. Despite the hurdles, Tzu Chi volunteers are ever determined to help. When witnessing what volunteers do, people are moved by their spirit, recognizing life’s impermanence and inspiring a cycle of kindness.

Love does not make demands on others. Love gives of itself and offers without conditions.

The diligent efforts of Tzu Chi Midwest Region volunteers marked another year of expanding love, care, and support in times of need. Volunteers ventured out in the wake of disasters, offered crucial supplies for families, provided essential healthcare services, and more to empower communities — without expecting anything in return.

There was a special guest on this day, Gina Cunningham, Mayor of Woodridge, IL. She spoke on stage, saying, “Watching the video touches me because it’s almost difficult to imagine that 19 months ago, Woodridge and the surrounding communities were impacted by a devastating tornado… Sometimes in life, when bad things happen or things come in our path that are not good, we must be so grateful for when blessings come in our path, because sometimes, in the worst times of our life, good things find us. And that’s how I feel about my introduction to Amy and Chong and Tzu Chi.”

Building Community After a Tornado

Nineteen months ago, a tornado devastated Woodridge, IL, affecting 450 households, 37 of whom are still without homes today. Mayor Cunningham recalled the first time she became aware of Tzu Chi. She met volunteers Amy Hsieh and Chong Hsieh through an event hosted by the Red Cross which helped families affected by the tornado: “In the corner of the room was a very robust table, there were people all over, helping and talking to people. And I could see that the people were so appreciative. And I said, ‘who is that over in the corner over there?’ And they are like, ‘Tzu Chi’”.

I cannot thank all of you [enough], Amy Hsieh and Chong Hsieh, and all of the volunteers that have touched the lives of so many people and made such an incredible difference.

Mayor Cunningham didn’t know about Tzu Chi at the time, but she felt the need to learn about the organization: “Every volunteer there was so touching…I could see the grace, the goodness, the kindness, and the compassion, it was immediate and everyone was gravitating to them. It was so touching, it was something I’ve never forgotten. And it actually inspires me as the mayor of Woodridge in my third term to do more than I’ve ever done because I’m honored by them and their friendship and grace.”

In addition to honoring those who have served the community in the past year and praying for a good year to come, the event saw volunteers, along with several attendees, donate bamboo banks full of change to support Tzu Chi’s earthquake relief efforts in Turkey as well as Tzu Chi’s global charity initiatives.

Tzu Chi volunteers measuring temperature
Although the pandemic has gradually eased, the volunteers are still taking precautions to ensure the safety of the participants. Photo/Jun Zhi Lin
Tzu Chi volunteers performing sign language song
Volunteers perform the piece, “Virtuous Works,” in sign language. Photo/Jun Zhi Lin

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