Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ultimate loneliness

For many people, Christmas is festive.  There are family gatherings, parties, meetings with friends, church services attended together - happy events. 

Some people - particularly single adults - however, may crave long-term, stable companionship - a husband or wife, or at least a stable boyfriend or girlfriend - more than anything else.  For them, festive days such as Christmas or New Year may be unbearably lonely.  They want to have someone to share life with, but can’t. 

There is another kind of loneliness which is even worse - the loneliness of facing a completely materialistic, unfeeling, meaningless world.  All by ourselves, without a personal God to keep us company and to give us hope.  If what we can see is all that there is, then when a person dies, one just disappears and there is nothing left.   That is the worst kind of loneliness. 

That makes this life unbearable in so many ways.  On the one hand, there is ultimately no one to share the struggles facing the harsh, capricious, and unjust realities of life with.   On the other hand, all the efforts, achievements, companionship, and relationships of my life amount to nothing.   My parents, wife, daughters, and friends disappear when I, or anyone of them, dies - never to be seen again.   That is unbearable to even contemplate. 

With faith, we don’t feel so lonely facing life.  It even makes the other kinds of loneliness bearable.  Because there is hope, not just in this miserable world, but in eternity. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Party at Hong Chi Special School

On Christmas Eve, as is our tradition, a bunch students and staff from our department went to the Hong Chi PineHill Special School in Taipo to organize a Christmas Party for the kids there.  There are two groups of special-need students invited to the party this year. 

One group is at the primary school age, with severe handicaps.  Most cannot walk, and have to sit in specially-designed wheelchairs.  Many have to wear special helmets to protect their heads from banging, because they are prone to get unpredictable epileptic spasms.  Many of them cannot talk, and have little control of their bodies.  Many of them have hands that curl up into tight fists.  Sometimes, if you massage their hands for a while, their hands start to relax.  And they would look at you, trying to tell you that it feels good, that they appreciate it.  

One boy loves to put everything in his mouth, particularly balloons.  A girl does not communicate much, but loves to tap her fingers on a balloon unceasingly.  Another girl also does not say much, but has a very sweet smile.  She loves to just go limp on her helper, and make her helper pick her up, which her helper - my student - is too happy to comply.  They were having a good time! 

The other group is at the secondary school age, with milder handicaps.  For some of them, their mental development are a little behind regular kids.  Some have Down’s Syndrome.

This year we have a special group of helpers - several refugee children and their parents sponsored by Christian Action.  They are accustomed to feeling helpless, dependent on others for food, a place to live, resettlement, dealing with governments.  This time, they have a chance to help others in need, and to have some fun. 

We sang with the kids there, played balloon games with them, gave them gifts, made Christmas cards with them, made them laugh, and tried to them make them feel wanted.

It is really quite a good way to enjoy Christmas.  And something God would like us to do.    

Thursday, December 23, 2010


On my way to a book shop in Mongkok last Sunday, I passed by a crowd that caught my attention.  Somehow, it looked different from the gawking-at-scantily-clad-young-girls-promoting-mobile-phones crowds.  So I took another look.  It turned out they were watching this young man without hands busily at work.  He grabbed a piece of brightly-pink clay, flattened it with a piece of acrylic, and turned it into a petal for a pink rose.  All by himself.  It is not extremely difficult, but still a pretty neat trick.  Several people gave him money.  He won’t get rich this way, but he may yet earn a living.  He is severely handicapped, but he is working hard to make himself useful. 

He reminded me of Nick Vujicic, the young man from Australia born without limbs - who turned himself into a hugely successful motivational speaker.  He certainly more than overcame his handicaps. 

Jesus once told a parable of servants who were given different amounts of money.  Those who went on to earn money equal in amount to what they were originally given were praised.  Those who simply kept the money without making good use of the money were reprimanded.  What is important is not what and how much we are given - but what we do with the talents we are given.

The more that one is given, the more will be asked from him.  It is both a warning to the rich, smart, pretty, healthy, and powerful; and a reassurance to those who are poor, dumb, ugly, sick, and weak. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Blissfully miserable

We Hong Kong people like to think we are rich.  We do have one of the highest GDPs.  We have the highest concentration of luxury cars.  We drink a lot of red wine, even though most of us cannot tell whether the wine we drink is any good.  We certainly have some of the most expensive apartments, and some of the richest people in the world.   But we do not realize that the obscenely rich are skewing the statistics.  When those outliers are taken out of the picture, we are much less well-off, even on paper.  

We do not seem to be aware that Americans live in 2000+ square feet houses with front and back yards while we live in puny little apartments.  Even mainlanders find our apartments small.  We have to measure our tiny apartments in terms of “construction area” to make them sound bigger.  Even our Filipino maids have houses back home that are larger than ours here.

Europeans work 30+ hours a week while we work 50+ and even 60+ hours.  Europeans take month-long vacations each year while we have perhaps 10 days.  We have more money, on paper, than people in many other places.  Yet we have no time to enjoy spending that money.  We take pride in being able to flying away to Thailand for the weekend.   As if spending half of the time travelling back and forth is enjoyable. 

While people elsewhere enjoy green trees and open spaces in their parks, we languish in karaokes and ice-cold, sterile shopping malls.  Or rub shoulders with smelly people in Mongkok. 

Canadians never have to worry about their food. While we have to be constantly on alert for fake eggs and soya source, poisoned vegetables, and bad meat from China.  But cannot afford to buy safer American or Australian beef.

We are miserable, yet we do not even realize it.  How pathetic we are. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness

It is hard not to get upset seeing how people like Liu Xiaobo and Zhao Linhai were treated.  They are seeking justice rationally, peacefully, and lawfully.  They should be lauded as heros.  Instead, they are put into prison.  Yet we feel so helpless in front of the overwhelming power that is oppressing them. 

Jesus Christ said that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed, for they shall be filled.  Will this promise truly be fulfilled?

It seems that we do hunger and thirst for righteousness, and yet there is no fulfillment.  But do we really?  Normally, when we are hungry and thirsty, we try to find food to eat, and water to drink.  The hungrier and thirstier we are, the harder we try.  So what have we been doing to try to satisfy our hunger and thirst for righteousness?  Does our action match our words?

Indeed we may not be able to do much about injustice far away from where we are, and against overwhelming power.  But there are injustices much closer to home, and against lesser obstacles.  Have we been trying to help those nearer us?  Those who are poor?  Weak?  Sick?  Handicapped?  Deprived?  Oppressed?

Are we at least righteous ourselves?  Can we at least say we do not sin, or hate, or envy, or lust, or maltreat? Are not jealous, nor selfish, nor rebellious?  If we cannot be righteous ourselves, what right do we have to demand justice from others?  What hope is there for us, for the world?  If we know what is right and do not do it?  If we know what is wrong but keep on doing it?

Our hopes lie not in ourselves, not in our own wisdom, nor goodness, nor power.  Our hopes lie in the One who is bigger than us, in Jesus Christ, in God.  He is the One who will fill the real hunger for righteousness that is in us, for ourselves, for the world.  But we have to truly know and feel how miserable we all are, and how great our need is.  


Friday, December 10, 2010

In Good Company

Boris Pasternak was named the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958.  He is best known for the novel Doctor Zhivago, an epic which spanned the last days of the Russian Empire and the early days of the Soviet Union.  The novel was made into a movie in 1965, one of the greatest movies ever made.  With a touching story, grand scenery, and moving music.  He was pressured by the then Soviet authorities to decline the award.  He died in 1960.  In 1988, Doctor Zhivago was finally published in Russia.   

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was the author of Gulag Archipelago, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, The First Circle, The Cancer Ward, ...  Books that helped the world learn about the oppression, and particularly the forced labour camps in the Soviet Union.  He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970.  He was prevented from accepting the  award, and expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974.   He returned to Russia in 1994, and died in 2008.

Andrey Sakharov was a Soviet nuclear physicist who became an outspoken advocate of human rights, civil liberties and reform in the Soviet Union.  He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1975.  The Soviet government prevented him from leaving the country to attend the Nobel Ceremony in Oslo.  In 1980 he was exiled to the closed city of Gorky (now Nizhny Novgorod).  In 1986 Mikhail Gorbachev released him from exile.  He died in 1989.  The Berlin Wall was torn down in 1989, and Sarkharov was remembered.

Liu Xiaobo is in good company. 


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Fa Yuen Street fire

Walking past Fa Yuen Street (花園街) near the Mongkok train station today, I was intrigued by a police cordon at the junction of Fa Yuen Street and Bute Street (弼街).  What could it be?  Was there a crime?

Suddenly, I remember hearing about a fire that burned down some hawker stalls in Mongkok yesterday.  Indeed it was right there, no more than 100 meters away from where I stood.  It appeared at least 20 stalls were burned down.  Some firemen were still inspecting the scene.

Most dramatic was the blackened outside walls of one of the buildings on the side.  One can imagine how bad the fire was.  It was said that the hawkers did not purchase insurance for their merchandize stored in those stalls.   It must have been a terrible loss for them. 

The police is looking for a man who was believed to have started the fire.  How does he feel now?  Did he anticipate this when he started the fire?  Does he regret causing so much damage?    

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Fantastic Noodle Shop (沙田瀝源村盛記麵家)

Hidden behind the car park in Lek Yuen Estate (瀝源村) in Shatin is a great noodle shop.  There is no need for words.  Just look at the photographs. 

You may have to hurry, however.  Because Lek Yuen Estate can be demolished soon. 

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Greed and philanthropy

L is a very shrewd businessman.  He pays his staff as little as possible.  He charges as much as possible for his products and services.  He pays his suppliers as little as possible, taking full advantage of the large size of his orders to squeeze out discounts.  He also pays his suppliers as late as possible, often months after the goods have been received.  But if you ever owe him anything, he is ruthless and swift in collecting his debts.  He is careful in cultivating his relationships with the rich and powerful, because it is good for business. But he gives no consideration to the old, the young, the poor, the handicapped.  If you cannot pay, he wants no contact with you. He abides by the law, but he is without mercy.  Business is business.

On the other hand, L makes quite a number of donations to prominent charities and causes.  He also makes sure that he gets maximal credit from it.  Often in the form of buildings and institutions named after him.  He likes to be known as a caring person. 

I am not trying to describe any real person.  But Mr. L seems to be the role model of a lot of us Hong Kong people. 

Does philanthropy make up for naked greed in business?  Can I squeeze someone dry for my enrichment, and then turn around to give the same person some small change - and feel smug in my generosity?

I don’t think so.  I think God is going to say, “Wipe that smug look off your face,” and worse.