One of the main tasks of a design researcher or designer is to find touching stories that can touch consumers at the core of their emotions. Last Thursday, I confirmed that I had found just such a researcher/designer, confirmed again my knack of “spotting talents”, and also confirmed again my lack of fate with these people. Or maybe it’s just people from New York. What a city.
I interviewed this person a couple of months ago, liked his work and attitude right from the start. Liked how much he loved people and his deep observation of how people lived, and his corresponding designs which managed to arouse my own emotions. He was enthusiastic about joining our team, but alas, his parents were denied their visa applications to the US. He was hoping they could take care of his wife who is not feeling too good at the moment while he came back to China, but since the visa arrangement did not work out, he had to reject our offer quite at the last minute. He was extremely apologetic about it. We didn’t hold any grudges at all, because we would have done the same. I told him the very same thing in my email, that I was honestly happy that he had put his family first before all else. I really meant it.
So last Thursday, I came back from lunch to find this package on my desk. I had wanted to order books from Amazon, but had not placed the order yet. Strange, who would it have been from then.
I was very touched to find who it was from, and the gift inside. A book named: The Uncommon Life of Common Objects. On a subject that is very close to my heart. I am a hoarder. I keep things. I hate to throw things away. For every piece, every scar, every scratch and every dent is a record of my human journey. Throwing it away would mean creating a hole, creating incompleteness. I don’t like holes in my life. So it seems many people in this field (design research and design) have stronger bonds with their objects, stronger emotional attachment. Yes, sometimes a little too much. I should really try to relax sometimes. But that’s another story, I digress, sorry.
The next touching story actually happened a while back when I landed in Taipei. Have anyone of you received anything else but hell from the immigration officers at any airport in the world? On a rare day on June 28, 2011, for the first time ever, I received this little gift from the officer who stamped my passport and welcomed me to Taiwan with a smile.
This year is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of China, or ROC, or Taiwan. The Taiwanese actually have their own calendar using 1911 as the base year, so this year is 100 in that calendar. This calendar is commonly used in Taiwan, used interchangeably with our Gregorian calendar.
The day I landed in Taipei – June 28 – also marked the first time China and Taiwan allowed individual travelers into their respective borders. Previously, visitors to either could only join group tours. This signals more openness and friendlier ties ahead, a cause for celebration indeed as Taiwan celebrates her centennial birthday.
As I walked out of the airport, I was stunned to find reporters everywhere and dozens of tripods sitting around. My initial reaction was some celebrity had arrived and turned my radar on to spot them. The cab driver who picked me up duly informed me of this historic moment that I was right smack in. Great, I sure knew how to put myself in the midst of history – ten years ago in NYC on 911, ten years later in Taipei on 628 🙂
The third touching story happened today. Last weekend, my friend Mike left his wallet containing 50,000 yen and all his legal documents on a train from Kamakura to Tokyo. He reported the loss, hoping to get his documents back but didn’t have much hope for the cash. He received a call to collect his wallet at Tokyo station on Monday. When he signed for it, everything was intact, including the cash. He said, what a country! I said too, what a country. If it had been in China, it’d be gone.
So today, I met my friend from Hong Kong, Winnie and her mom. We went for lunch at a restaurant on East Nanjing Road. As usual, I took out my camera to record all the dishes. I left my camera on the table. When the time came to settle the bill, I went with Winnie to the counter. Then, after gesturing to her mom to leave, we just walked out. It was 2 hours later when I was on the train headed home that I realized I did not have my camera with me! I rushed back to the restaurant, trying to stay calm and praying that the good staff had found it and kept it safe for me. The camera would have cost RMB2500 at least.
Indeed they have kept it safe for me. I went to the cashier’s counter, told a lady that I had left my camera behind, and she told the girl behind the counter to bring out the camera which she had found. I was so thankful I could have kissed her! I thanked her profusely, to which she replied it was her job. So hear this folks, it’s not just Tokyo, in Shanghai too, honest people are abound.
The lady who found my camera salvaged my day. The camera was important not only in its value, but also to my work and my life. I needed it for my business trip next week to document life in lower tier China, something I’ve been wanting to do for a while now.
In our mundane existence, we should not hope turn in great deeds that will affect the lives of millions. With every small thoughtful gesture, we are likely to touch the people that we meet and interact with everyday. They may not amount in the millions, they may be strangers, but they are very real souls that we can touch. One person we make happy is one happy person. If we can make people so happy with so little effort but imbued with so much thoughtfulness, then why not?
I think my youngest sister Hui Teng does this really well. I know she has tried the hardest to make a small aspect in people’s lives so much better. Sometimes people take her for granted, leading to much frustration. But someday, people will know, people will appreciate.
“If you can’t do great things, do little things greatly.” – what I found written on the flip side of my desk in primary school, which I have held on to, but probably not as steadfastly as my little sis, and I should endeavor to do good in every little way I can.