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Friends of the Heart Lotus Count Their Blessings

31 HIV patients under Tzu Chi Singapore’s care, fondly called by the volunteers as their Friends of the Heart Lotus in Mandarin, attended their first gathering session of the year on 1 April 2012. It was a fruitful afternoon filled with love and chatter. More importantly, everyone was inspired by the life story of Grandpa Wu – they came to realize how fortunate they actually are, and the lovely afternoon ended with a sing-along as the finale.

Malika, who accompanied her mother to the gathering, was touched by Grandpa Wu’s story. She hoped the inspiring stories she learnt that day could help her brace herself to whatever life challenges that lie ahead of her. (Photo by Tan Paik Hui)

“There is definitely love in this world! When you find it, you must treasure it and spread it around.” This was what Mr Huang, one of the Friends of the Heart Lotus, truly felt after the end of the gathering.

It was a bright afternoon on April’s Fool Day and volunteers were looking forward to welcome their guests. One of the function rooms in Jing Si Hall was already packed with small round tables, each decorated with little red flowers picked from the garden. Sitting at the lobby was Mr Yap who had arrived early to enjoy the serenity of the Jing Si Hall.

Mr Yap was a beneficiary of Tzu Chi’s medical subsidy in 2009, thereafter he got a job and from September 2011, he was already not in Tzu Chi’s assistance. As he learnt of Tzu Chi’s humble beginning and its spirit of ‘every person counts’, he took home a Tzu Chi bamboo bank after last year’s year-end celebration and persisted on donating a dollar a day into the bank to help the less fortunate. To remind himself, he would cross out each day on the calendar after donating into the bank. The kind-hearted Mr Yap now volunteers regularly in a recycling event and his gentle smiles showed how contented he is with his life.

At about 2pm, other guests started to arrive gradually and kids were brought to the second level to do some drawing to present to their parents after the gathering. The purpose of this thoughtful arrangement was to let the parents enjoy the programme for the afternoon.

As part of the programme, two short videos were shown. The first was ‘Heal the World’, a video filled with scenes of natural disasters and human turmoil edited along the famous Michael Jackson song. The heart-wrenching footages coupled with the sentimental lyrics struck a chord with many, urging all to spare a thought for others and altogether play a part in saving Mother Earth. The second video, ‘The Most Beautiful Hand’, tells of a real story of a Malaysian senior which further inspired the heart of the guests.

Grandpa Wu lost his left lower arm and hand in a construction site accident more than 20 years ago. Due to his love for his family, he never bows down to fate but persists on to care for his sick wife and two intellectually-challenged children. He earns his pennies by selling homegrown vegetables to market vendors as well as scavenging and selling recyclable items. When Tzu Chi offered to provide living assistance to his family in 2010, the contented Grandpa Wu requested to have the amount halved as he thinks he is still capable of supporting his loved ones. The Tzu Chi volunteers respected his decision and the friendship between them and Grandpa Wu grew along with their regular visits to his family.

When the senior came to realize through the volunteers that there are people who are more unfortunate than him, he signed himself up to become a Tzu Chi donor hoping to help more people. He is a living proof that there is nothing that a person cannot overcome in life. At the end of the video, Asri, one of the Friends of the Heart Lotus felt that he is more fortunate than he thought he was as compared to Grandpa Wu.

The Jing Si Aphorism bookmarks placed on the tables were prepared by the volunteers as a souvenir for the guests. The volunteers hope that the words of wisdom by Master Cheng Yen would serve as ‘dharma dews’ to enlighten the hearts of the Friends of the Heart Lotus and encourage them to face life positively.

On one of the aphorisms “One more good habit means one less bad habit”, Mr Koh, who started volunteering with Tzu Chi, interpreted in his own term that “not committing a bad deed is in fact a good habit, so doing good deed is a good habit”. Mr Koh said that because he is not well-to-do, he will instead volunteer his time as doing non-remunerated work is also doing a good deed.

The emotional ordeal which Mr Huang went through during his sickness had made him unhappy with many things. Down the road, the care and concern from Tzu Chi volunteers made him feel that there are still love and kindness in the society. The life story of Grandpa Wu has inspired him to face life in a more positive and meaningful way that day. He took a couple of the Jing Si Aphorism bookmarks knowing that they could serve as food for thought for his daily spiritual needs.

Looking at one that says “To forgive others is to treat yourself better”, Mr Huang said the aphorism is very useful to him as he used to be quite intolerant to criticisms. Going forward, he will remind himself to treat himself better by constantly letting go of criticism and negativity.

Also drawing inspiration from Grandpa Wu’s story was Malika who accompanied her mother that day. Even if it was only for a short while, Malika said that watching the short videos had made her forget about her own troubles and she will bring the beautiful memories with her to help her face Life’s challenges positively.

The two-hour gathering ended with a video lecture by Master Cheng Yen titled ‘Respecting All Life with Love and Compassion’. In her message, the Master urges everyone to respect all living beings, nurture compassion and adopt vegetarianism to save the Earth. The day ended with a sing-along to the heartwarming Tzu Chi tune ‘One Family’. We hope all of our Friends of the Heart Lotus had drawn some strength and comfort from the gathering and they would pass on the courage and love to others who need them.

Though no longer a Tzu Chi beneficiary, Mr Yao continues to support Tzu Chi’s event and persist on donating one dollar a day to help others. (Photo by Tan Paik Hui)

To Mr Huang, Master Cheng Yen’s Jing Si Aphorism is like pure dews and Dharma-water which could serve as a reminder for his daily spiritual needs. (Photo by Tan Paik Hui)

Volunteers did a sign language performance on the song ‘One Family’. The Friends of the Heart Lotus, who attended the warm gathering, were encouraged to join in and learn the sign language song together. (Photo by Tan Paik Hui)

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