As I came home from my run at my Tiny Little Park next to my apartment complex, I saw a group of people gathered, kids and adults. One of the adults waved at me, it was our apartment complex manager that I call 老板(lao ban) “boss”. The lao ban was handing out orange slices, smiled through his mask and handed one to me. Kids were in colorful balloon hats that some of our guards were making and someone was passing out flowers. What was going on? After 3.5 months of living life on a spectrum ranging from complete and total isolation to coming out only for work, it felt surreal to be beckoned over by the lao ban to what looked like a neighborhood party.
Some of my neighborhood kids called my name and I asked them what was going on. They said that they could write cards to their mother’s for Mother’s Day and take a red rose home. I then figured out that the management was selling boxes of oranges – hence the lao ban giving me an orange slice. I have lived in China for 12 years now and my Chinese is not as good as I wished so I depend a lot on good guesses and friends like my neighbor kids who speak English. I was sort of shocked by the happy coming-together-ness of it all. I think everyone felt the same as I did, and I could perceive extra happiness despite faces being half covered with masks.
I really didn’t need any oranges, but I said out loud to myself as if it were an epiphany: “I am going to participate in my world!”. The management team were delighted when their token foreign resident stepped up to buy a box of oranges. It was a BOGO deal but I had no idea what the GO was of the BOGO. It was a box of some vegetable that I had no clue what it was. But that is just how life goes for an American living in China. You just have to go with the flow and enjoy the mystery sometimes. Even though I was still sweaty from my run, the management team wanted pictures with me and my oranges and mystery veg. (Later on I found out they were lotus. I love lotus. How in the world do you cook lotus?) Before I left, they handed me a red rose.
Participating in our world. Coming back to life as a community after months of dormancy. I was surprised how it energized me. Is this what the spring flower feels like after the snow has melted or the first ray of the sun feels like after a long dark night?
God created us to be together. We carry one another’s burdens, we magnify one another’s joys. We rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together and may we always encourage one another. (Romans 12;15; Hebrews 10:24-25)
This is who we are as humans who are wonderfully made by our Creator who is also a lover of community – we beckon one another over for an orange slice and a rose and a selfie. We will make it through this time, world. Let us continue to love one another and trust that God will bring us through. There is hope for a better day… together again.
Shalom all. With love from China.
Heidi Olson hosts the Spiritual Waimai Podcast