A famous writer, Mr. Liang, was on the way to visit friends together with two other senior writers in a suburban area while he was in France. It was windy and raining, and in front of the writers’ car was an SUV with two French girls, who kept looking at the writers through their back window. As they drove, the SUV kept splashing mud on the writers’ car – and though they tried to pass the SUV, the road was just too narrow to do so. Mr. Liang asked the driver if they could pass and move in front of the SUV, but the driver thought it would be impolite, as the SUV would be splashed with mud once the writers’ moved in front of them.
Image from The Telegraph
Suddenly, an older man driving another SUV behind them stopped to speak to the writer’s driver. Afterward, Mr. Liang asked what the man had said, and the driver responded that the old man had informed them that his car was splashed with mud as he drove behind them. The old man had stopped to tell the writers because his two daughters were in the car with him, and he did not want them to think that it was alright to ignore what their actions did to others. Mr. Liang was ashamed, because at that moment, when he wanted to pass the SUV, he had only been thinking of himself, and not what the action of passing the SUV might do to those in the car.
It reminded the author of the story of his niece in Australia, who traveled to Sydney with a friend who was an ABC (Australian Born Chinese) to go fishing for shrimp. While there, an older, native Chinese man was also fishing, and when he pulled up nets full of shrimp, he would only pick a few shrimp and release the rest back into the ocean. The niece asked why he put the shrimp back after spending so much effort catching them in the first place, and the man replied that Australian citizens knew that they could only fish a particular size of shrimp, and that, in Australia, no one needed to remind them of that rule.
These stories show the meaning of civilization – actions and beliefs that stem from humankind’s inherent values and virtues. It is kindness, and being able to put oneself in other people’s shoes. Most of all, it appears in daily life in person-to-person relationships.