The Goodness of the Human Heart
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)