In my search for a dude with big, strong hands and some anger to work out in the form of a back massage, I found instead a slight man with a sunny disposition, an inspiring story, and the lure of patience to which my angel wings easily relinquished their anxieties.
I had a two-hour massage this evening by a man we’ll call Shaun. At 30 years old and not more than 120 lbs. in stature, his first impressions on me were hardly foreshadowing of his impact. Shaun came to the US nine years ago from Harbin, China, the nation’s ice festival city, established in the aide of the Russian’s building the Trans-Siberian Railway. Once here, he realized that he didn’t know enough English to successfully attend college, so he decided to study English and took a job in a Chinese restaurant as a delivery driver until he could more successfully take classes.
Shaun worked 11 hour days, six days a week at the restaurant, and had very little time to study English, so he decided to orchestrate yet another life change that would enable him to work fewer hours and learn more English. Today, he’s a massage therapist (and a damn good one, at that!), who works seven hours a day, five days a week, and whose English is very good!
Shaun and I shared ideas, thoughts, and questions. He didn’t really understand what communism is when I asked him what it was like to grow up in a communist nation. Further, he said that one of the big differences between the Chinese and Americans is that the Americans always want to travel to see the world and nature, where the Chinese are unconcerned generally with travel and nature experiences. He said plainly, “We don’t have fate. After the war, in 1949, the government told us to believe in science only, so we do not have fate or religious conflicts.” He said with warmth, “America is the greatest nation in the world. Everyone comes here to be better people, so there is no option but to succeed when you come here, even if it is hard to learn the language and culture. Even when it feels very lonely.” I also learned that in the US, we look forward in time. In China, they look backward in time. We have fate and a sense of what might be to imagine. The Chinese have science, and thousands of years of what has been to celebrate.
Shaun said casually at one point that if the US government survives to 1,000 years, it might work more like China. Our nation is so young, that enough time has not yet passed for people to forget their anger and learn to live in harmony. He suggested that America is the future, the hope of humanity, and the pioneer of the world of tomorrow. The hard times of today, too, shall pass he assured me.
While my back muscles gave way to his not-so-angry maneuvering, I felt restored in my confidence that neighbors and friends hold space for peace in our world. Tonight, where America and China met, shared stories, asked questions, and learned a little bit more about the other – we demonstrated that world peace is more than possible. It’s forthcoming, and lives in us.