An Act of Kindness, A Foundation for Life

by Benjamin Phua (10th Grade)

A few months ago, one of my classmates gave me a book to read. The title of the book was “News from True Cultivators”. He recommended the book to me because he said it was very interesting and insightful. I dismissed his statement with a little “pssh” and after a few days, I totally forgot about it. Ironically, once I got my hands on that book, I could not help staying up all night reading the book. I would like to share one of the passages in the book that influenced me greatly, it goes:

Being brittle and hard is easy
It takes courage to be kind.
Being stingy and selfish comes
naturally to the weak, but
It takes strength to be compassionate.
Holding on to the self is not wisdom,
But it takes faith to let go.
Doubts and fears are greed for benefit.
It takes giving to be happy.

The moment I read the passage above, I could not help but thinking, “That is so true!” In my opinion, Master Hua was the greatest example of this. I read and heard many stories about him, and all of it relates to his kindness and compassion. It was because of his kindness that I have a chance to attend Developing Virtue School.

When I was in elementary school, if someone asks me about what I think going to school meant, I will immediately answer that going to school means sitting in a classroom and listening to a teacher lecturing about whatnot. After I came to Developing Virtue School, when someone asks me the same question, I would answer that coming to school means to set a good foundation of being a good person. In my ethics class during elementary school, my teacher would also say the same thing. However, it did not mean anything to me back then. My teacher would tell us that if we can pick up garbage on the floor, help an old lady cross the street, return a lost wallet, etc., then we can be a good person. She would even give us quizzes on true or false questions where which action was right or wrong. That, of course, required little or no thinking at all, and everyone in class will pass the test with flying colors. In my opinion, that class did little to influence my way of thinking. That was because my attitude towards that class was, if it is that easy to become a good person, then all someone needs to do is to help an old lady cross the street all day! Ironically, little did I know that that thought actually had some truth in it.

In the high school which I attended before I came to Developing Virtue School, I would see some of my schoolmates trying to gain an advantage over others by being mean to them. They would use methods of bullying, threatening, and all sorts of other ways to show others that they were the strongest. I always thought that those were the wrong things to do. I would turn a blind eye and ignore their actions. But, when I read that passage in the book above, I reached an epiphany that true strength comes in the form of kindness and compassion instead of brutality. I also realized that that strength is a different kind of strength. The strength of kindness and compassion is infectious---if one person has it, others cannot help but receive it. I do not care whether you will think this is weird or not, but sometimes when I am all alone, I would smile by myself when I think of a good deed that someone did. Even though I did not do it, I would find a faint glow of joy in my heart.

Writing this essay, I can say I understand a little of the adage which states “a jar fills drop by drop”. To me, that means kindness starts small. Through Master Hua's teachings, I also learned that a good deed, albeit small, is still a good deed. Now, after so many years, I can finally understand my elementary school ethics teacher's message---you do not need to do anything heroic to set a good foundation of being a good person, all you need is a little strength and a little courage to perform an act of kindness. So next time I see an old lady trying to cross the street, I would definitely run over to her and help her do so!


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