A junior high school in America arranged for an exchange student to stay with a family in China for a week. The first impression the family had of their guest was that she was tall, slender, fair-skinned, and had a sincere smile.
The Chinese mom prepared Yangzhou buns and wontons for their first breakfast together. The American girl used chopsticks and told the family: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do!” At the end of the breakfast, she said: “This is the best breakfast I’ve ever eaten. Thank you very much!” The mother felt elated by the words of praise from their guest, as she rarely heard it from her own family.
For dinner that evening, they had tomato scrambled eggs, sweet and sour pork ribs, and soup. They all had a good time chatting during the meal. After dinner, when the mom started to get up to clean the dishes, the girl quickly stood up and said: “May I help you?” Looking at her sincere face, the mother said: “No, thank you. You go and chat.” The sincere offer to help struck the mother as a very natural and considerate gesture.
The next day, the mom notice that the girl’s passport was worn out and asked out of curiosity: “How many countries have you visited?” The girl responded: “This is my third passport, and I have been to more than 30 countries.” Noticing the expression of surprise on the mother’s face, she explained: “Usually, our school organizes overseas tours in summer time. This is my first time visiting China.”
The mother next asked: “How do you find time to learn?” The young guest replied:
“We have a heavy homework load, but we also have to do chores every day. My brother is responsible for washing dishes and helping my mother to clean the house, while I take care of our two dogs and three cats. Every family member has their share of obligations and responsibilities.”
The Chinese mom was surprised to hear this, as she is responsible for all the household chores. Her children are clear of any obligations except for their homework.
When the young guest was about to leave, the family took her to a well-known Chinese restaurant. When they started to order shark fin soup, the girl firmly refused, saying: “I cannot eat this, as these animals are in need of protection.” The mom felt ashamed, but still admired the girl’s commitment.
After dinner, the family went to play games at a nearby parlor. The mom’s daughter and her friends looked for games that would simply be fun to play; however, the American girl walked around to see what games had the better odds of winning.
After she won a handful of tokens, she gave some to the daughter and her friends, and searched for games she thought would simply be fun to play. The mom was impressed by the ability of the girl to carefully map out a logical plan.
The mother realized that enjoying life is a child’s instinct, and freedom is a child’s nature. If you strangle a child’s instinct and nature, you are killing their vitality and motivation. Different kinds of education can result in different kinds of people.
Edited by David Clapp