Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

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Dec 10th
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Home Our Volunteers Stories The Art of Helping Others

The Art of Helping Others

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Article Index
The Art of Helping Others
Giving people what they need the most
Treating the needy with respect and sincerity
Helping Others Is an Art
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Lai Mei-zhi, age 73, has been making regular house calls and caring for the needy since she was certified as a Tzu Chi commissioner in 1986. Having dedicated herself to charity work for the past 23 years, she offers a unique perspective on helping people living in hardship. Lai says that being sincere in interacting with those she helps and being consistent in word and conduct is her secret to remaining firm, strong, and focused in her charity work.

Lai is very fond of painting and traveling. However, she finds that the joy gained through those interests is temporary, while the joy derived from helping others is everlasting. She considers making house calls and caring for the needy especially meaningful because when a person is helped, his or her whole family is helped too. The benefit for society that Lai creates is thus multiplied many times beyond her direct contributions. In her philosophy of life, it is a blessing to be loved by others—but being able to bring love and care to others is a greater blessing and something of inexpressible value.

Lai Mei-zhi (賴美智) was born in 1937, the same year that marked the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). Although her family was better off than most during this time, she spent most of her childhood witnessing the harsh realities of war. During that time, she saw how her grandmother and father cared for the sick and the poor. It helped her grow into a compassionate and empathetic person.

Life in war-torn Taiwan was very difficult for most people. Medical supplies were extremely tight, so Lai’s grandmother and father provided free medicine for people with malaria and tuberculosis. Her father donated money to help rebuild local schools damaged or destroyed in air raids. Food was scarce too. When people begged their family for food, Lai’s grandmother generously gave them bowls filled with food.

Lai’s grandmother and father also helped to shelter families that had fled from the cities to the countryside during the war to seek refuge from intense bombardments. Those refugees had little to eat, sometimes only salty pastry dough made of soy pulp or rice porridge with vegetables. It was barely enough to sustain them. Children attempting to scoop up a few more rice grains when filling up their bowls risked being spanked for their greediness. Seeing young children disciplined in this way saddened Lai, then seven years old. She tried to cheer up the kids by exchanging her white rice for their far less tasty pastry dough. She said, for their benefit, that she liked soy pulp better anyway.

The family’s kindness and compassion continued even after the war. Japanese was the official language in Taiwan during the Japanese occupation of the island (1895-1945). In 1945, after Japan’s surrender brought the war to an end, the Nationalist government from China regained control of the island. After the change in government, many people had to learn to speak Mandarin, the national language of China. Lai’s father took the initiative to hire teachers to teach villagers.

Lai’s grandmother and father served as exemplary models of kindness and generosity for the young girl. Her father used these instances of generosity to teach Lai the proper manner of giving when providing food or money to others. For example, he taught her it was very important to squat down beside the beggars when giving them money. By no means should she stand up and toss the money casually into their bowls. That would have been very disrespectful.

Because of the loving examples set by her grandmother and father, Lai is full of compassion and knows the importance of respecting others while giving. Over 20 years ago, she joined Tzu Chi and began volunteering for charity work. Though very fond of painting and traveling, she has chosen to devote all her spare time and energy to making house calls and caring for Tzu Chi care recipients. Through her house calls, she strives to better understand the needs of those living in hardship so that she can truly help relieve their suffering.


 

" It is never too late for a deep-rooted affinity to blossom. Do not worry over a distant journey as long as one finds the way. "
Jing-Si Aphorism