As fireworks raged in the distance and New Bridge Road rumbled under the feet of ecstatic Lunar New Year revelers, a strange hand reached out from the shadows and touched me from among the throngs of humanity. Thinking it was a beggar or unwelcome solicitor, I instinctively waved the intruder off with indifference as I continued my march down the street. After walking a few steps, I stopped and turned around, overcome by an odd feeling of being remiss. An older man was standing there, staring at me. “Help me … please,” he said as swarms of people whisked to and fro, practically transforming him into a blur. An elderly woman was standing by the man’s side, her arm wrapped tightly in his, both of them frozen in front of a rather deep curb that he could not manage to transgress. I made my way through the crowd and joined his side, clutching his arm to brace him as he slowly made his way down the curb to the walkway below. That was all he wanted – a simple helping hand – and I nearly completely ignored him.
Sometimes we go through life programmed to avoid, disengage, and shut our eyes. We trudge along our little paths in our personal zones of semi-apathy, understandably preoccupied with our jobs, our fortunes, and our families. At times like these, our senses get dulled, and the ravages of routine diminish our curiosity. Yet, if we disconnect ourselves from the tender touch of humanity, we may fail to see sparks of inspiration that can help us overcome the darkness of the day. When walking through the forest of life too fast, one can miss some lovely trees along the way.
Safely on firm ground, the elderly man looked up at me and managed a broad smile, despite the pain from his failing legs. “Thank You,” he said as the couple moved on into the night. The magic of those two simple words is amazing, stirring a feeling of intense warmth that no fire possibly could.
For me, Chinese New Year took on a special meaning on that night. Beyond the festivities, past the fanfare, and apart from the reunions, the uncle on the street taught me an additional purpose of the holiday: to freshen the mind, open the eyes, and enlarge the heart.