The month of May being the seventh lunar month associated with filial piety in Buddhism, a filial piety themed activity was organized on 18 May 2014, during the regular monthly Tzu Chi Parent-Child Bonding Class. With the intention of getting children to appreciate the sacrifices and difficulties their mothers experienced during the nine months of pregnancy, the children engaged in parent-child bonding games and were guided to prepare and serve food and drinks to their parents in a timely display of respect and gratitude.
Caring for a “Foetus”
“Congratulations on being ‘pregnant’!”At the teacher’s announcement, the children began tying a filled balloon to their stomachs in preparation for the activity at hand which would help them in understanding the difficulties their mother went through during the nine months of pregnancy.
Rubbing their big “bellies,”the children laughed and exclaimed in excitement. However, upon hearing the teacher instruct them to take good care of the “foetus”under their shirts so as to ensure a 100% “birthrate,”the children loudly protested that it was not possible.
Saddled with their big “bellies” the children got to work on crafting thank you cards and flowers for their parents, and happily sang and danced to the tune of the song “Contentment.”Gradually, they began to feel uncomfortable and irritable, and Zheng Hao Tian a primary three student, kept complaining how hot he felt. The teacher and class assistant spoke reassuring words of comfort and warned them not to touch the “foetus”so as to avoid harming it.
Never Forget Our Debt of Gratitude
As the three classes of students were having lessons, their parents were similarly kept busy. A total of 106 parents gathered in the prayer hall and the topic similarly centered on the theme filial piety. They watched a touching video whose protagonist, an old man, shares how parents care greatly for their children, his helpless resignation towards his gradually weakening body, and his wish to gain his children’s understanding. The moving video resulted in many a teary eye, and provided much food for thought. Our parents, who have worked hard all their lives, do not crave the luxury of material comforts but simply wish to be treated kindly by their children.
It is said that in raising one’s own children, one realizes the debt of gratitude one owes to one’s parents. Parent Zhuo Yang Nai shared that before he had his own children, he could be considered as a filial son. However once his own children came along, he began to see his parents less often. He only realized that the time that one has with one’s parents is limited when his parents passed away one after the other. Though he subsequently began to treasure the time he had with his father-in-law, in life nothing is forever and after his father-in-law too, passed away, the meaning of “timely filial piety”was etched deeply in his heart
Zhuo and his wife had accompanied their daughther Si Hui to class that day, and ten year old Si Hui thoroughly enjoyed the class. Together with her classmates, little Si Hui was busy in the kitchen preparing hamburgers so that all of them could serve refreshments to their parents. Under the careful instruction of their teacher, every child also learnt how to serve tea properly to their parents.
A Cup of Tea, Served with Gratiutude
The games segment kicked off with “Searching for Mom’s/Dad’s Hands.”A row of parents stood facing the children, a long rectangular table separating them from each other. Tzu Chi volunteers then raised a long swathe of dark blue cloth placed in-between them, effectively obscuring the children’s view of their parents. At the order of the organizing emcee, the parents sprang into action and changed places with one another, thus marking the commencement of the game! The children, saddled with their big “bellies,”began to intently observe the various pairs of hands that stretched out from behind the dark cloth, hoping to correctly identify the caring pair of hands that raised them.
As Si Hui’s small hands examined a pair of adult hands, she muttered “It’s not my mom, it’s not her.” Searching anxiously around for her mother’s hands, she moved a few paces and carefully checked out the various adult hands that were stretched out in front of her. Finally recognizing a familiar pair of hands, she joyfully exclaimed:“It’s her, this is my mom! Mom’s hands are warm to the touch.”As she hugged her mother happily, her mother Madam Li Xiu Fang declared too, that she knew it was her child the moment she touched her little hands.
The hall was momentarily filled with excitement and joy as parents and their children embraced each other. As she cosied up in her mother’s embrace, Wang Jing Ning says that she recognized the mole on her mother’s hand and it is those pair of hands that impart in her a sense of security. Zheng Hao Tian holds tightly onto his father’s hand as he proudly shares how he recognized his father’s voice, the dark coloring of the skin on his hands, its rough look and the long hairs growing on his skin.
During the tea reception, the children served tea to their parents as students from the Tzu Chi Teenagers’ Class sang and performed a sign language item entitled “The Voices in Our Hearts”which describes a child’s gratitude and love for his parents.
As the music started, the children, accompanied by the class facilitators, held trays on which tea and a hot towel was placed. With great care, each child presented the towel to his parent, followed by offering a cup of tea auspiciously called the“Three Goodness Tea,”representing kind words, good thoughts and the right path in an act of mutual blessing. Afterwards, parents were also served a vegetarian hamburger and received a handmade thank you card and from their child.
When asked what had they learnt that day, Eleven year old Liu Hui’en said she now knew how to express filial piety to her parents, while her nine year old sister snuggled up to her parents and shyly declared: “I love mom and dad!”