By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
I rose in the morning, feeling blissful even though Father’s Day was not my day. How could I be joyful during the coronavirus pandemic? With uncertainty and bad news overshadowing good news every day, why do I feel at peace, not just today, but the day before and the week before?
Some people cried a lot over the pandemic. Despite the Northwest Asian Weekly’s fate being uncertain and we are struggling, not once did I cry. No lamenting. No blaming. The amazing thing is, there is no fear in my bones. You might say I am brave. Not quite. I have trained myself to appreciate what I have, not what I don’t. My family is healthy, and I have the gift of a productive mind and strong body. What else can I ask for?
The worst is yet to come, according to health experts, who have predicted a second wave of the pandemic in September. Wait, the first wave isn’t over yet!? Just as I was pondering why I am so positive…I received an email to put me in the right perspective.
“Remember, not getting what you want is sometimes a stroke of luck,” Jane Nishita emailed me a quote from Nobel Prize winner Dalai Lama. I cherish my friends, who always encourage me.
A similar Chinese proverb says, “You don’t know if a misfortune is a blessing in disguise.” It reminds me that some decisions I made, between 1998 and 2001, were the best I had ever made for myself and my family. Yet, I realized it only during the pandemic.
So whatever happens to me or the Northwest Asian Weekly, I might not find out the effects until much later. In fact, I am curious how every week I can put the pieces of the newspaper together, like a tough jigsaw puzzle. It is sort of exciting when you don’t know how the seeds you plant would turn out.
People ask how I do it. No, how do we do it ? We just do, I say. And my team will respond—commitment, passion, and a mission to preserve our community’s voice. Because of them, the Asian Weekly and its sister paper, Seattle Chinese Post, can hit the street every week and online without fail. By doing it every single week, we are giving back and supporting our community.
We have a purpose every week. That purpose ignites me more than ever. Too many people are relying on us to provide them with critical information every week.
Newspapers are considered “essential,” according to our government. We are essential to the community not only in this crisis, but now and in the future. We are an essential information clearinghouse. We are an essential bridge between the Asian community and other communities.
Inspiration from current events
How does COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement speak to me? It’s not the time for us to feel sorry for ourselves or stay idle. It’s time to act. You can always make a difference with small acts of compassion each day. It may be a small thing, but it could mean the world to others.
I never sent out Father’s Day greetings. But I did this year. Today’s fathers are more inclined to be equal partners with their wives. Instead of just being breadwinners, modern fathers do a lot more for their family, children, and community than their dads before them. It’s the best time to acknowledge my diverse male friends’ contributions as dads.
When I sent the greetings, I expected nothing back. And I was surprised. One texted me back with a photo of his kids, I was elated. Another told me that he’s at his son’s graduation. I was thrilled to share his joy. One sent me an interesting study about Japanese Americans attorney. My brother texted me back to remind me of our late father. Instantly, I was grateful that I have two dads, my biological dad and stepfather, who shared with me many life lessons.
My son John and daughter-in-law, Tracy, did their best to make Father’s Day special for us, even though they couldn’t join us in person. John follows social distancing guidelines to the tee. Given the spiking number of COVID-19 deaths and infections now, he and my staff member Nancy pushed our office to “work at home” in early March. Tracy cooked us mouth watering Hainan chicken and rice with mustard green soup for lunch. John insisted that he would treat us and pick up dinner for us. My husband George asked for steak. John picked up a full dinner takeout, including a bone-in steak, baked potato, and wedge salad. The chocolate cake was my request. Yes, the steak bone made me happy as I could chew and suck on it like a dog. I wonder if I was a dog in my past life? Everything was lovely and delicious.
I texted my kids afterwards, “No need to bring us lunch for the next three days,” as we have so much leftovers in our fridge.
It’s a time to accept change
Having COVID-19 and BLM together is like a Twin Pandemic, as some suggest. It’s time for change. We need to change drastically or be a change agent. Embrace new ideas and new relationships. We all have the responsibility to make the world a better place.
For those who carry bias and stereotypes of other ethnic groups, now’s the time to admit it and change your attitude and behavior. Start with making friends with other ethnic groups. How about baking cookies for your ethnic neighbors? You make the first move. Accept them as human beings and learn from them.
Watch and support Black entertainers. You can learn another culture in multi-dimensions by watching their shows and movies. My favorite comedian is Dave Chappelle. My favorite Black actors and actresses are too many to name. Some of my favorite movies are BlacKkKlansman, Harriett, Marshall, Malcom X, Hidden Figures, Selma, The Color Purple, Akeelah & the Bee. I also like movies starring Queen Latifah or directed by Tyler Perry.
Through the Northwest Asian Weekly Foundation, we have given several scholarships to students of color for their work in diversity.
Years ago, someone called me from behind on the street.
“Ms. Ng.” I turned and saw a young Black lady, full of potential.
”You gave me a scholarship when I was a student at Rainier Beach (High School). Do you remember?” she asjed.
”Where are you now?” I asked.
”I am now at Seattle U, studying mathematics.”
When she said mathematics, I then remembered that she received the scholarship because she started a club to tutor students of color in math and science at her high school. She had no idea how much satisfaction she gave me that day.
Go a step further—show how you can support people who don’t look like you or think like you by joining their groups or donating to organizations who do good for their communities.
I am grateful for my friendship with people of all races and backgrounds.
My Black friends play a key role in alerting me to the current and upcoming movers and shakers in their community, so our organization, Women of Color Empowered, could feature them in the Asian Weekly and honor them in our events. I have always considered them as blessings in my life. Thank you to my friends, you know who you are, for making me the person I am today.
I feel nervous when I see on television that people are gathering in crowded bars and beaches in California and Florida. Those who resist masks or ignore social distancing for whatever reason, please wear masks for yourself and others. Remember, the virus doesn’t discriminate. The consequences of getting infected are dire. Even if you survive, you pay a heavy price. Just ask Michael Flor, who recovered from the virus after being in the hospital for over 60 days. He will tell you that your body will never be the same. Some recovered patients have permanent damage to their respiratory system and other side effects. Flor’s kidney has been damaged. He now goes to dialysis three times a week.
Good things are right in front of you
On Father’s Day, roaming in three parks adjacent to each other (Judkins, Jimi Hendrix, and Sam Smith Park) was the highlight of our day. Walk for sanity, I say.
In the past, we hiked everywhere, far and near. With the pandemic, it’s better to walk closer to home. Our usual spots were Seward Park and Olympic Sculpture Park. Those places are dangerous for us. We are in the high-risk age group for the virus. We felt uncomfortable when we were there. It was crowded, the visitors didn’t wear masks, and never kept a 6-foot distance. I would assume it’s the same as Green Lake —overcrowded.
“Good things are right in front of you,” said my husband. You just have to look. Judkins Park, Jefferson Park, Jimi Hendrix Park, Sam Smith Park, Montlake Park, Elliott Bay Marina, and Fort Dent Park in Tukwila are some of our favorites. You might have heard that there were BLM protests around the first three parks I mentioned. But other days, those parks have little traffic, and are close to the ID. Strolling around public parks is free and a wonderful way to exercise. It’s a chance to appreciate the fresh air and our city’s Parks Department’s great job of keeping it clean. Walking a loop around the park clarifies my mind. Walking or jogging two to three park loops a few times a week is better than any medicine in curing anxiety and depression.
It’s time for sacrifice
It’s been more challenging for me to publish a community newspaper during a pandemic, when most of my staff members are working from home. In the past, we relied so much on personal interaction to make all the corrections and changes. From the first draft to a finished product, we made at least 30 changes each round. From captions to headlines, spacing to color, photos to graphics, switching stories to different pages, we constantly revise every tiny bit of information to make it better in appearance and content. You can imagine how much more work and time is needed for me to communicate the changes back and forth through emails, texts, and phone calls. However, the sacrifices I make are insignificant, compared to the amount of business we lost during the pandemic. The impact of lost business might not be considered a disaster compared to those who are homeless or have lost their jobs, or got infected with COVID-19.
A month ago, the New York Times published a story about hundreds and thousands of urban Italians who lost their glamorous jobs in retail, entertainment and fashion, and went to work in farms to survive. The rationale is, you go where the jobs are. It doesn’t matter if it’s picking fruit or harvesting a farm. As long as you work hard for honest money, there is no shame if you can adapt and contribute to your society, and make a living without being a burden to your family. Farmers desperately need help. I found the story inspiring. People understand the meaning of sacrifice in difficult times. Do whatever it takes to survive and protect yourself and your family. That’s resilience.
The pandemic has taught me how to survive, live wiser and better. Thanks to the book, “The Choice: Embrace the Possible” by Dr. Edith Eva Eger, I learned that “We can choose to be our own jailers, or we can choose to be free.” A holocaust survivor, what Eger endured was so unspeakable, traumatic, and horrifying that she was only healed decades later as told in her memoir. My hardship compared to Eger at an Auschwitz concentration camp is like eating a sumptuous dim sum meal, full of choices, fun, and possibilities. Do I have any right to complain?
I choose not only to be free, but joyfully optimistic by being creative with what I have. I started writing about lessons from coronavirus in a three-part series two months ago. And I still have more to say about those experiences. You can say this is Part 4, Lessons from Coronavirus. You decide. Thanks for reading.
Assunta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.