The Good­ness of the Hu­man Heart


Special Focus - - Contents - Zeng Yin 曾颖

My ma­ter­nal grand­fa­ther was a black­smith. He was a pure-hearted and hard-work­ing man who did many good deeds through­out his life. My grandma told me that the first good thing he did was to in­stall a large tea ket­tle in his lit­tle work­shop. Ev­ery morn­ing, he got up early to fire up the ket­tle and boil some wa­ter to make a batch of lo­cal aro­matic tea plucked from the neigh­bor­ing Red and White Moun­tain in Shi­fang County. Then he pre­pared some clean ce­ramic bowls so that the veg­etable grow­ers and porters could en­joy tea free of charge.

Ac­tu­ally it was a bit of an im­po­si­tion to an im­pov­er­ished la­borer like my grandpa, but you may find his rea­sons for do­ing this sur­pris­ing.

At the age of 20, my grandpa was sent down to the coun­try­side to sell iron­ware door to door. Just imag­ine how a young twen­tysome­thing suf­fered in the burn­ing

heat, schlep­ping a heavy load on his back through the vast coun­try­side; dy­ing of thirst the whole way. Along the path he spot­ted a small com­pound and hur­ried there to beg for a cup of boiled wa­ter from the pro­pri­etor who just shook his head and replied there was none to give. My grand­fa­ther im­plored him in­di­cat­ing that any wa­ter would do, and that he des­per­ately needed some­thing to drink. An ex­pres­sion of dis­dain came over the man who replied in a curt tone, “Cold wa­ter needs to be car­ried and warm wa­ter needs to be boiled. No one is here to do ei­ther of those for you.”

That re­mark pierced my grand­fa­ther straight to the heart, and he never for­got the in­ci­dent. Giv­ing a stranger a cup of tea takes al­most no ef­fort, yet this man, this, “lord of the manor,” couldn’t even be both­ered to lift a fin­ger to help; and to add in­sult to in­jury, his mock­ing and in­sult­ing tone made his words all the more cut­ting. It showed how cold and cal­lous a per­son he truly was.

Dif­fer­ent peo­ple re­act dif­fer­ently when suf­fer­ing in­sult and in­dig­nity. There are two most typ­i­cal re­sponses: one is to be­come sullen and re­sent­ful, and to spit bit­ter vit­riol back at the world to an­swer its in­jus­tices in kind, and the other is to un­der­stand what it means to go through tri­als and tribu­la­tions and to be un­will­ing to let oth­ers suf­fer the same hard­ships. My grand­fa­ther was scoffed at, re­buked and ill- treated for merely hav­ing the nerve to ask for wa­ter, he knows all too well what it feels like to be dy­ing of thirst , so he is more than will­ing to set up the tea- stall out in front of his smithy.

As my grand­fa­ther got on in years he once quipped, “They say that peo­ple’s morals are go­ing to hell in a hand bas­ket, but I think that this world takes all kinds. There are those like the one I met in the coun­try­side that day who couldn’t be both­ered to spare even a cup of wa­ter, and there are those like me who give tea freely. When you meet some­one like him, you might feel that the world is cruel, that so­ci­ety has gone to the dogs, and that there is no kind­ness left out there. But when you meet me, you will feel the good­ness of hu­man­ity and will truly un­der­stand that the hu­man heart can be saved.” ( From LifeisanIn­di­vid­ual

Jour­ney , Zhe­jiang Univer­sity Press. Trans­la­tion: Chase Coul­son)

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