By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Have you ever thought about thanking those who wished that you would fail? Maybe, you should.
In my high school senior year, my history teacher called me to her desk and said, “You will never get credit (meaning A or B in the Hong Kong public exam system for seniors), you probably will just get a passing grade.” She said it loud enough that most classmates could hear her.
Suddenly, my respect for her turned into hate. I admit that I did not give 100 percent effort. However, her shaming strategy hit me so hard that I wanted her to eat her own words. I ended up being in the top .05 percent of students receiving an A, with a Distinction in European history, out of 25,000 students in Hong Kong who took the exam that year. Also, I received another Distinction in Chinese History. The two As changed my mentality and fortune: College was right for me.
In retrospect, my teacher was the real winner. She knew how to push her students to succeed. God bless you, Mrs. Ou, wherever you are. Thanks a million.
When I first started the newspapers, many said, “Give her a year or two, the Northwest Asian Weekly will fold.” We are still publishing after 36 years. In those days, I never took those words personally. I understood their logic. I was a nobody, a newcomer to the community. I wasn’t trying to prove anyone wrong like I did to my high school teacher. What motivates me, now and then, is my determination to serve the community through information and news. Thank you to those who doubted me. I am grateful that many naysayers have become my friends, advertisers, readers, and supporters. You are the ones who have inspired me to persevere. My story has served as an inspiration to those who want to emulate me in overcoming adversities.
Those who stay with you through thick and thin
Recently, Uwajimaya celebrated its 90th anniversary, and I wanted show my appreciation. The store has advertised in the Asian Weekly non-stop for 36 years. Saying thank you was not good enough, so I copied Oprah, who took her production team shopping before Christmas to show her gratitude.
I don’t have as much money as Oprah. I gave each of my staff members $25 to shop at Uwajimaya. It was interesting to see what they bought — from shampoo and conditioner, to cosmetics at Uwajimaya’s gift department, not just food.
Ho, ho, ho, I enjoyed being Santa Claus.
Those you might have forgotten
Washington State Solicitor General Noah Purcell became a star when he represented our state, suing President Trump on his travel ban against Muslims last January. Our state was the first to sue and win. Although the U.S. Supreme Court overturned it later, the ban was modified with exemptions.
Imagine the recognition Purcell received from awards, thousands of news clips, and tons of well-wishing cards after his victory. He could have brought along those impressive accolades when he spoke to the Seattle Rotary Club at the Seattle Westin Hotel recently. Instead, he brought along a small congratulatory card from his former Kimball Elementary school teacher. His Japanese American teacher wrote, “Dear Noah, Just wanted to thank you and expressing my appreciation for your accomplishment. You probably don’t remember me, but I was an ELL teacher at Kimball when you attended. I am writing to you from the perspective of someone whose family was greatly affected by another Executive Order, EO 9066. Seventy-five years ago, my family was uprooted and sent to the horse stalls in Puyallup Fairgrounds, then to Minidoka, Idaho, where I was born in this internment camp. You can see why I am greatly concerned with what’s happening in our country and why I felt such pride when I saw you in the news. Please keep up the fight… Saki Shimizu.”
Ms. Shimizu, Purcell remembers you fondly.
Now, the card is on his desk as a reminder for him to fight hard for social justices. What a tribute to his former teacher! The audience’s reaction: A thunderous standing ovation at the end of Purcell’s speech. You can see his speech online at youtu.be/479X0yuprFI.
Those who have died
This year began with sadness and loss for me when my mother died. One by one, my parents have left me, father and step-father. I was grateful that my mother kissed my hand and held it tight when I last saw her in January.
Those moments of sweetness and intimacy will remain in my heart forever! I regret that I couldn’t pay my respects, as her ashes are buried in Thailand, next to my stepfather’s. Thank you Mom and Dads for all you did for me.
One of my friends came to the Seattle Chinese Post’s 35th anniversary dinner in October 2017. I was so glad I thanked him at a holiday party in December. Less than two weeks ago, he died of a heart attack. Deaths happen so suddenly, you never know when it will be the last time you see your loved ones or friends.
Be thankful for what you have
Purcell said that’s what his parents taught him. Focus on what you have and you will be a much happier person. A meaningful life means helping others to have a better life, he said.
Former NFL player Tim Green who was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig disease) said on 60 Minutes, “Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t.”
Be grateful for unexpected blessings
Our biggest challenge is to not only bring you great stories every week, but strong stories worthy of the front page. We can’t manufacture news. It has to be something happening, that’s relevant to the Asian community.
Last week’s story on the Seattle City Council vote on the police contract was an incredible opportunity for the Asian Weekly. But we didn’t know how the issue would play out until the last minute. What makes the story interesting is the split in the Asian community — Asian organizations were against the contract and the Chinatown residents were for it.
On Wednesday morning, I emailed my editor to place the story above the fold. The Council’s 8-1 vote was held on Tuesday afternoon. But the story didn’t end until Wednesday afternoon, right before we went to press at 3 p.m. Why? Mayor Jenny Durkan decided to sign the contract with Police Chief Carmen Best in the Chinatown-International District that afternoon, as a gesture to thank Chinatown residents for their support. From start to finish, five staff persons were involved, from doing interviews, to writing, proofreading, doing the layout, and taking photos. With hard work and luck, everything fell into place. The Asian Weekly was the first to report from our community perspective. That’s our reward.
If you have received blessings unexpectedly, be grateful. Know who the players are, who help you directly and indirectly, and thank them accordingly.
Thank unsung heroes
I am grateful to the 60-plus Chinese immigrants who attended the Seattle City Council meeting. If they hadn’t shown up, the Asian Weekly would have had nothing unique to report about, as the mainstream media had already reported on the Asian organizations joining other people of color organizations, protesting the police contract.
This was the first time these immigrants have felt so passionate towards the police raise. Chinatown residents usually feel intimidated, or are too busy, or inconvenienced to attend meetings outside the International District (ID).
At the meeting, a couple of seniors who carried “support contract” signs needed to go to the restroom badly, but decided not to as they felt their presence was too important. I hate to say, in the past, some seniors attended meetings for the free food, and not really knowing what the issue was about. This time, the issue was straightforward, “Are you for the police raise or not?” Everyone was so happy after the Council vote, as they said to each other, “We won. We won.” For some, it was their first taste of American politics, a triumph of democracy at work. As Eric Liu, author and founder of Citizen University, said, “Democracy is up to us.” These immigrants finally experienced the true meaning of democracy. Bravo!
Auntie Pang, who testified on behalf of Chinatown seniors, was amazing.
Speaking fearlessly through a translator, she was passionate about the police raise. Earlier this year, Auntie Pang was sick and limping in pain. Yet, when she spoke in Chinese, everyone listened. Now, all the cops know who she is.
We thanked Chinatown residents for their courage at City Hall by publishing a pictorial of the Council meeting in the Seattle Chinese Post.
Thank those for sharing
Jeff Folger, a retired veteran, found his passion though oranges, yellows, greens, and reds. According to CBS, Folger pursues the changing color of fall through trees. And he shares all those New England photos on Facebook, telling people how to find them. He and his wife drove all over New England, looking for the best fall colors, so others can enjoy. When you benefit from another’s sharing of food or information, remember to thank them. You can also create your own ways of sharing your expertise and stuff.
Angela Domingo, sister of King County Superior Court Judge Dean Lum, wanted to surprise her brother with a gift on Father’s Day. What better gift than Lum’s published article so beautifully written about their own father Abe and his business, for the Asian Weekly’s Father’s Day issue!
She reached out to us for help. We redid the layout and framed the article. And she ordered three frames for all her siblings.
Studies have found that developing habits of gratitude can enhance your happiness. But it takes frequent practice and creativity.
One speaker at TED Talk suggested saying “thank you” when we wake up and before we go to bed, for the next 30 days. It will change your life.
I followed his advice. For five consecutive days, I haven’t missed a beat.
What I notice is that, though only a short time, I enjoy getting up even if the day is going to be challenging.
If it sounds absurd to say thank you when we get up, consider that some people don’t. My mom died in her sleep. Two of my friends’ husbands suffered a heart attack while sleeping at night.
Why someone can’t really experience grateful emotions
If your life is so smooth that everything just lands on a silver platter, you won’t know what gratitude is. If you haven’t done much in life, you wouldn’t be able to experience the real joy of gratitude. When you are hit with setback after setback, and you are able to persevere, you cherish not only the results, but yourself and the people around you. Yes, that’s the taste of gratitude.
Edison Wong, Asian Weekly’s intern, asked high schoolers how they practice gratitude. Most said, they just say thank you or they are present when friends or loved ones need them. Two said, they buy gifts to show appreciation.
I don’t blame them. When I was their age, I confess I didn’t know how to show gratitude properly. Mostly, I took things for granted. Only now being older and wiser, I think about gratitude often and on a deeper level.
Our success in raising over $170,000 last year for two University of Washington scholarship endowments was my approach to showing appreciation, having received my degrees from my alma mater. My UW education and scholarship opened doors for me and I hope the endowments will do the same for other young people.
Everyone can think of creative and practical ways to thank your own circle of friends and supporters. You just have to commit to doing it.
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.