HOMESTAYS- LOVE, COMPASSION, AND GRATITUDE

By  Billy Lee 李名信   April 2020

When Covid-19 Pandemic started to spread in the United States, many universities closed and left a number of foreign students stranded. My young friend, Jackson Barkstrom , from Richmond Virginia was a Third-year student at Brown University ( Providence, Rhode Island ). He learned that two schoolmates on his Brown China Summit Committee were for some reason unable to return to their homes in China.   With consent and even strong encouragement from his Mom ( Tina ), Stepfather ( Brent ), and younger Brother ( Walker – a freshman at Brown) , he warmly offered Homestay to his stranded friends.  They are now six of them living and weathering the pandemic together as one family – not knowing how long this crisis will last.

It was through Homestays that I got to know Jackson’s family. Near the end of my Freshman Year at Yale, Jackson’s Grandfather, David Gregg III, who was on the Freshman soccer team with me, approached me and asked if I would like to room with him the following year. We became roommates for three consecutive undergraduate years 1952-1955.

During those years, I enjoyed Homestays at the Gregg’s home in Darien, Connecticut so many times I can not even remember, but I shall always remember vividly the warm and kind smiles of Mr. Mrs. David Gregg Jr., and the special earnest and attentive look of David’s younger brother, Arthur. I shall always remember the various efforts they made to keep me entertained and to teach me about the American Way of Life.

I grew most deeply attached to Mrs. Gregg whom I affectionately called Virginia. In my mind, she became my American Mother – in many ways closer and more intimate than my natural mother in China.

Our friendship endured, grew deeper, as well as expanded to embrace more members from each side of our families. This was possible because we made efforts to keep in touch despite of David and Virginia’s passing. I think Tina now assumes Virginia’s Leadership role. Indeed, Friendship requires deliberate reaching out and helping each other. It requires true Compassion. In my view, Tina is much like Virginia.

We remain connected with Arthur and Sarah, but became more closely connected with Tina and Jackson who in the middle of his high school years developed a special interest in China and U.S.-China Relations. Four years ago, we introduced Jackson to a 1990 Institute sponsored Project, inviting American High School students to visit China and teach English at a Chinese primary school.  Last year as a representative from Brown’s China Summit he volunteered at the 1990 Institute’s Teachers’ workshop on “CHINA TODAY” -coordinating speakers’ speaking time.

We were delighted to hear that Jackson’s Family so generously offered Homestay to two Chinese students at this very scary time. We wanted to know how they manage. The following is what Jackson wrote to me:

Dear UB, ( Uncle Billy  )

Here are two pictures from Summer and Helen’s stay. The first is Summer and I gave my brother a haircut, and the second is a photo from our dog’s birthday celebration

Summer is from Suzhou went to Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania (fun fact, I played her school in squash!)… she said she feels like family here and loves having two brothers. She gets along very well with our sense of humor. 

Helen is from Shanghai and went to high school in China. We recently got her addicted to our favorite type of ice cream… last week Brent ordered 12 pints of Graeter’s Ice Cream, his favorite from his Cincinnati hometown, and Helen likes it more than any of us. She ordered another 12 pints that came in the mail yesterday, and made a post endorsing it on 知乎… Graeter’s ice cream is about to be Chinese internet-famous!! Her Zhihu account is apparently very popular. 

Helen introduced us to an anime (Japanese animated tv series called Stein’s Gate) about a hilarious mad scientist and his time-traveling adventures… all four of us (Walker, Helen, Summer, me) love it and we’ve been having “anime night” every couple days. Summer, Walker, and I also recently played tennis outside, on our patio, with chairs as the net.

My brother and I taught our friends some funny dance moves (i.e. the “crab rave” and the “floss”) as well as the art of silly walking. We really enjoyed dancing that evening after my brother presented his specialty – Walker’s Portuguese egg tarts- for supper.

Overall it’s been great, we haven’t really been able to leave the house but we’ve been keeping ourselves entertained.

Cheers,

Jackon

I am so glad that they are extra innovative in finding ways to keep life joyful, but I also know that not knowing the end of the tunnel is extremely stressful. I can imagine the strain in putting up a happy face for your hosts or vise versa every moment of every day. It’s taxing. Homesick emotions sometimes cannot be restrained, and to host two foreign guests in the middle of house moving is definitely not easy. These particular friends of mine, however, will overcome all these challenges, because their COVID-19 Homestay Experience is shared and will forever be remembered with LOVE, COMPASSION, and GRATITUDE.

The stories of the website: Build connections, carry on helping each other

By Yilu 2020.04.03

In June 2019, I received Billy’s email which says he has got a stroke and needed to do something before it’s too late. “I hope some of you will do something to help the world improve the way we relate to each other.”

Actually, Billy’s thoughts have affected many of us, making me start to think about the meaning of life and what we can to do carry on our precious humanity. When Billy’s in a bad health situation in June 2019, he wrote a letter during his wakeup to talk about what we can do to help children get a right. In that letter he emphasizes:

I think that all parents need to protect their own children but must be careful not to teach them to make quick all black vs all white , all good vs. all evil judgements. Indeed, people in this World are not all good or all bad. Every person has good qualities and misguided qualities. We should acknowledge and promote Goodness in all people. We should identify Bad Traits and Misdeeds, but should not condemn people totally.

I read about it and realized it would be great to let more parents see it. After all, Billy has devoted years in researching education and friendship, he knows more about them. So I decided to record Billy’s thoughts, hope that one day, those recordings could spread further and affect more people.

One of the things I learned from Billy is when we decide to do something, we should do it “before it’s too late.”

I discussed my ideas with my friends Wenmo and Yihua, they’re both very supportive, we figured out how to run this project very quickly, Yihua, as an engineer, helps to set up this website, Wenmo helps to manage the website. Later, we found another friend: Tingting, she helped us a lot in translation.

I’m more than grateful that the other three friends are of great help in this project. I’d like to introduce them one by one here to show my appreciation.

This article is all about the cute friends who help to build up this website for Billy and the stories of them !

Wenmo loves drawing, she recently has published a drawing series on her own website, telling the stories happened around her.

Yihua’s hobbies are a slightly special: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, rock climbing, Japanese (he has learned Japanese by himself for over two years) he always wants to make life shine more.

Tingting is currently an English teacher in Beijing, she loves to travel, yummy food and movie, just like all the other young girls of her age. Maybe you will be surprised, I haven’t met her so far, we just contact online and do this work together. We become friends online from strangers. haha~

I used to read about some books on psychology, those authors are trying to tell us the greatest happiness comes from the connections between people. Making friends is just like building connections, and the miraculous part of it is that when we know someone is caring about us, and we need to care about them, we don’t feel lonely even though we all came to this world all by ourselves. And I appreciate teamwork very much, it makes me feel powerful to work with different people for the same goal. I wanna say to my dear friends, thank you. Let’s “carry one our precious humanity”.

Here are the stories told by the three friends.

@ Wenmo

In July, my close friend Yilu asked me to help collect Billy’s articles and upload them to the website. I joined her without hesitation because I think she’s a very nice person and I wanna do things together with her. Yilu then told me about the story of Billy, I found out Billy is actually very charming. The more I read about his articles, the more I like him.

I have to say, Billy’s values and lifestyle really attract me that I think it’s a meaningful thing to collect his articles and spread them to more people.   

图片包含 人, 男人, 建筑, 雪

描述已自动生成

@ Yihua

My thoughts are quite simple and straight forward. I’m in this project because Yilu wants me to help, she’s my friend, and friends help each other O(∩_∩)O

@ Tingting

I think my life’s get a little bit different after I get to know Billy, a truly talented and passionate “young man”.

In August 2019, I saw a message from our alumni WeChat group, it says, “We need a volunteer translator with the knowledge of education to help…” Back then I knew nothing about the person who sent it to the group chat, but I was touched by her because of her passion for life through her words. And I appreciated it that she also volunteered to do something for others with her spare time, I decided to contact her.

Then she introduced Billy to me, I learned that Billy cares a lot about education in both China and the US and has done his efforts to help improve it.

I didn’t expect Billy is such a passionate “young man”, always wants to contribute to society. I was impressed by him deeply even though I haven’t met him before. I immediately joined that team to do the translation on weekends.

The work of translation also makes me rethink my way of education, from this perspective the work is a special gift to me. I really hope we can continue to do more meaningful things for others and society.

ENDEARING SONGS

Billy Lee 李名信 ( Member US-China Peoples Friendship Assoc.) January 2019

Here are a few very inspiring quotes on Music from Positivethesaurus.Com :

Bono: “ Music can change the world because it can change people. “

Wm. Congrave: “ Music has charms to sooth a savage beast, to soften rocks, and bend a knotted oak. “

Lao Tzu: “ Music is the soul which can be heard by the whole universe. “

Harry Styles: “ Amazing thing about Music, there is a song for every emotion.”

Maria Augusta von Trapp: “ Music, a magic key, opens most tightly closed hearts.”

EdgarWinter: “ Music is very spiritual, it has the power to bring people together.”

Hans Christian Andersen: “ Where words fail. Music speaks.”

I have been doing research informally on friendship, empathy, compassion, and how to connect people – especially children – from around the World.

Few weeks ago, I was introduced to Prof. Andrew Jones ( Director of China Studies at U.C. Berkeley ) who showed me an interesting publication of selected Chinese Children’s Songs. Immediately an idea popped to mind : “ To introduce specially selected songs from different countries to each other may be a wonderful project to promote.”

I tested this idea among a few “usually responsive friends”, and here are few of their very helpful and encouraging responses :

Arthur Gregg:

“We are the world” a song that immediately comes to mind, also Up With People, an International Singing Group in the 1960-70s.  A critique wrote, “Music and social actions create opportunities for youth to develop a better understanding of the world, recognize the responsibilities they have to each other, and become global citizens by acting as positive agents of change.”

Jackson Barkstrom:

I remember the impact, singing 同桌的你 ( You at the same table ) at Qiaoqi Primary, had on me and the other teaching assistants during the 1990 Institute sponsored ACE trip to Shanghai three years ago. We were all near crying or barely holding ourselves together. Then we taught the Chinese kids “You are my sunshine” in our ACE English class, and they loved it. 

Bob Doran:

You have never had a Bad Idea. This one might Sing Globally.

Alice Chiang:

I can see compiling a book of songs for children from many different countries including CDs.  A great way for children to learn about different languages and cultures and make friends with people from different countries.

James Luce:

Once you have collected the appropriate songs, titles, lyrics, and musical scores these can be transmitted to schools, daycare centers, Boy-Girl Scouts and other youth organizations.  Separately, here is a title for your Friendship Movement: C.A.R.E. ( Compassion, Attachments, Relationships, Empathy ) A mosaic without cement is just a pile of pebbles. Friendship is what bonds people together.

Ryan A. Leonard:

Some popular children’s songs share the same melody across languages- for example, the French nursery song ”Frere Jacques” is “Are You Sleeping” in English, and Two Tigers (兩隻老虎) in Chinese. (It’s fun to learn both.)

Fred Gardner:

I don’t mean to be discouraging. I think it’s a great idea, but I wouldn’t expect too much in the way of (automatic) cross-culture benefits from it. (other inducements and facilitations will likely be needed ).

Stephen Smuin:

My idea is a bit different. Take myth stories from other countries and put them on as plays. ( How about Musical Plays based on Myth stories from different countries ? )

Megs Booker:

Start with a two country project. Use Chinese songs as part of 1990 Institute’s Jazz Program in China.  Should contact our friend, Jazz Composer and Pianist, Jon Jang.  <jjang@igc.org>

Fred Pratt:

Your latest idea is neither naive nor all that novel. When I was studying German at the famed graduate language school at Middlebury College (back in the 1960’s), we regularly sang German folk songs (Volkslieder) as a means not only to learn popular and colloquial German, but also as a means of encountering and appreciating a different language and culture. We had a wonderful little book of songs which introduced itself with these words: “Sprich, und du bist mein Mitmensch; Singe, und wir sind Brueder und Schwestern!” This translates easily into English: “Speak, and you are my fellow man (human being); Sing, and we are brothers and sisters!”

At a late age of 86 this year, and not at all competent in media technologies, etc., I realize that such a project needs to be embraced and implemented by younger and more competent enthusiasts – perhaps even visionary academic institutions, multi-national companies and governments which all have convenient global connections. I decided, however, that I should first clarify my own thoughts by writing down a Basic Plan which can be further developed or modified by others later.

Here is my Naïve 4-Step Basic Plan :

  • Step One :   Start with a few International popular songs to set a testing model. The selected songs should have instant emotional impacts as well as long-term memorable qualities. Music or melody generally provides the mood; Lyrics provide Meaning.  Good recording and singing with clear enunciation are essential. Ultimate goal is to generate Personal Joyfulness, Group Bonding, and Cross-cultural Appreciation.
  • Step Two:    In preparing the Package, understanding the indigenous spirit as well as the eventual international appeal require thoughtful translations. Books, CDs and Video are useful tools. Package should be well designed.
  • Step Three:  Distribution to Schools, Boy-Girl Scouts’ camps, Daycare Centers, Youth  and Senior Centers, International and Cultural groups, Libraries, Book Stores, etc. etc..  Engage Educational Institutions, Multi-national Media Companies, and International Governments.
  • Step Four:  Promotions to make sure that Music becomes a more integral part of our Life globally. Have Performers and the Listeners inspire each other! Reach out to all around us! Promote Friendship, Empathy, Compassion. Connect people around the World. Heartily learn and enjoy each other’s most endearing songs.

Notes :   This is an effort in Bridging Heart-To-Heart Across Different Cultures. This is a GLOBAL CHALLENGE PROJECT to my more competent younger friends around the world.

                         

                        

                        

Sometimes the children really get it and adults should listen

A dream by 86 Yr. old retired architect Billy Lee  李名信   July 2018

Share your smile with the world.

It’s a symbol of Friendship and Peace.

Attending the third and final session of  a special ICAF-sponsored FRIENDSHIP WORKSHOP – on July 4th weekend  2015 at the National Mall, Washington DC – twenty-four international teenagers ( 12 boys and 12 girls preselected from 70+ foreign countries ) were buoyant and anxious to summarize what they have learned from the first two days and what inspirations they have gained.  

They learned in the first session how to break ice with strangers from many different cultures. In the second session, they brainstormed on the pros and cons  in making friends – touching on the deep impacts of Wars vs. Peace and Hatred & Suspicion vs Love & Trust. For these teenagers, they simply can not understand why we humans can send a spacecraft to the moon and can make robots play chess, but cannot  learn and teach one another on how to tolerate and befriend  each other.

They decided that sometimes Children must push the Adults on basic ideals. They heard for example that the world’s children in fact played an important role in advancing Environmental Awareness these past few decades. Environmental problems were taken for granted forty some years ago, but today one can not discuss most issues without reference to Environment. This workshop has inspired them to work together and push for greater awareness about the need to promote Friendship world-wide .

Following one of the facilitators’ advice to set a clear goal and write down

their many urgent wishes, the group spontaneously decided to create a “DECLARATION OF INTERDEPENDENCE” on this July 4 Weekend noted for U.S.’s “DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE ”. They further decided that an “INTERNATIONAL CROSS-CULTURAL INSTITUTE ON FRIENDSHIPOLOGY” should be established in order to study this complex matter holistically.

It’s interesting to observe how things progressed during this critical third session. An American girl first proclaimed that  we must emphasize Compassion with Friendliness.  A boy from Brussels said, “we must emphasize Connectedness and Collaboration. A Chinese girl added “ Harmony “.  A Japanese Boy: “Peace”. A German Boy:  “Repentance”. French Girl: “ Forgiveness”.  Indian Girl : “ Fabric Woven with many treads “.  Boy from England :” Nature-Environment”. Boy from Norway : “ Sustainability “.  An African Boy:  “Education for All”. An Arab Girl added: “Equality”.  There were many other suggestions, but one Chinese Boy uttered last: “Don’t forget  the word INTERDEPENCE “.  One of the facilitators also suggested : “Seek Commonality”.

The students google-searched  in teams for ideas and inspiration.

On “TEAM BUILDING” they selected the following graphic pictures:

For FRIENDSHIP BUILDING they selected the following gestures.

Many also liked the Buddhist and  Native American Peace Symbols and this

Picture of a Calumet – Peace Pipe or Friendship Pipe.

Famous quotes that delighted them most were:

  • Share your smile with the world. It’s a symbol of Friendship and Peace.
  • Friends… they cherish one another’s hope and kind to one another’s dreams.
  • The bird a nest, spider a web, and man FRIENDSHIP.
  • A life without a friend is a life without sun.
  • Unity is strength.   L’union fait la force.
  • This is, because that is.  This is not, because that is not.
  • All things come into being through the interaction of various Causes and Conditions.

Their final collective production was this letter below :

Dear Family Members, Teachers, Friends, Government Leaders, and Fellow World Citizens- young and old,

At this 2015 ICAF Global Children’s Festival at Washington D.C., we, the 24 International students representing different countries and cultures around the world, were truly inspired by learning from each other and discovering the following truths :

When we first started with an earnest intention to “get to know each other and to learn from one other”, much curiosity and anxiety existed in us.

By opening up to each other and sharing some heart-felt ideas, feelings, and questions etc., we somehow became closer bonded.

All of us subsequently felt a miraculous desire to build deeper friendships –individually and collectively.                                                                 

We now feel that there is a real need for more and more frequent opportunities for young people around the world to have this kind of enlightening encounters.

We are determined to spread this “Interconnected Spirit and Joy”

when we return to our home countries, and we will nurture the long-term connectedness of this newly bonded group of strangers. 

We want to challenge our adult leaders to give more attention to Friendship Building which has been taken for granted and ignored.                    

We want to urge our adult leaders to focus on world concerns, instead of just national interests, since we are truly interdependent.

We urge for a Global Declaration of Interdependence,  and hope for the creation of an International and Cross-cultural Institute on the study on Friendship or Friendshipology –as soon as possible !

Most sincerely,

Names and signatures of the 24 International Students

( 12 to 14 year olds )

Emphasize More On People’s Goodness














by
Billy Lee - 李名信 - June 2019



Since retirement from Architectural Practice twenty years ago, I have been doing informal research on Friendship and on Cross-Cultural Person to Person Relationships. It’s quite clear that people mostly relate to each other based on trust and judgements. I have observed that many of my good friends are very cautious yet quick at making harsh judgements.  They do not trust readily and they judge others rather rigidly. These friends come from different cultures – both Eastern and Western. My friends generally try to be nice and friendly, but their cautiousness and their stern deliberations on good vs. bad or right vs. wrong ultimately make real trusting or mutual acceptance difficult if not impossible. I seriously wonder why and how all that became so.

I think it is true that in both Eastern and Western Cultures all parents first try to do their very best to protect and raise their young ones.  I remember my parents always alerted me on various dangerous signs – whether it was sharp metal edges, broken glass, open high-rise windows, not well-behaving playmates, or suspicious-looking people. They tried to protect me from getting hurt myself or being harmed by others by always saying “ Don’t do this. That’s dangerous. Avoid that person. That person is no good .“  “Be Careful.”  While all that seem to be earnest and caring, I suspect their very simplistic teaching without holistic explanations might have caused many children to grow up and assume the worst case in all situations, and size up other people in black or white or in absolute good or evil so very quickly without hesitance.

It may be that the parents realize that the children do not have the time and maturity to quickly analyzed all the complexities in multiple shades, and the potential danger is so alarming that their children best be taught to prepare for the worst situation immediately. In making such quick judgements we also often make permanent negative assumptions on other people’s characters. We developed the tendency to define others definitively and permanently. Condemnations right or wrong always create hatred and bad feelings unfortunately, and our societies generally do not know how to encourage, redemption, or reconciliation.

I think that all parents need to protect their own children but must be careful not to teach them to make quick all black vs all white , all good vs. all evil judgements. Indeed, people in this world are not all good or all bad. Every person has good qualities and misguided qualities. We should acknowledge and promote Goodness in all people.  We should identify Bad Traits and Misdeeds, but should not condemn people totally. As to parents’ teaching their children on how to relate to other children, they should point out why certain behaviors are not good but avoid total character assassination. When you judge certain children Bad and condemn them as permanently Bad, they naturally react defiantly with anger and will behave negatively. If you trust that they have intrinsic goodness in them and can learn how to embrace positive behaviors, I believe that they will embrace you as well for your kindness towards them. Most importantly, you want your own children to become kind and forgiving as well as strong and intelligent.

Recognize people’s Positives as well as Negatives, but emphasize more on People’s Goodness, please !  Cultivate people’s intrinsic Goodness should be our primary goal indeed!