Family Ties

Family Ties

From Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrating People Who Make a Difference

Family Ties

You can have everything in life you want, if you’ll just help enough other people to get what they want!

Zig Ziglar

On tiptoes, I strained to look down the concourse to see my son Pete’s waving hand for as long as possible. He, Paula, and my two-year-old grandson sped away in the crowd of travelers, eager to begin their work and studies halfway around the world. I wanted them to succeed and find joy in their work; but if I probed my heart honestly, part of me hoped they’d spend a few months in Asia and change their minds.

That didn’t happen; they were excited to discover their new city and immerse themselves in a new culture. After three or four months, I congratulated myself that my yo-yo attitude rose more frequently to “I can be genuinely happy for them” than spinning near the ground at “maybe the plumbing will get to them yet.”

Then, during an evening webcam session, Pete enthusiastically affirmed their colleagues and new acquaintances. “Yeah, they’re just like family to us!”

My string snapped. Thank goodness our webcam’s field of view relayed only half of my husband’s smiling, and my stricken, face to their computer monitor. My rational self acknowledged they needed good friends in that challenging place, but—“family”? My heart objected; that’s what we were. We’d been replaced—or at least seriously elbowed aside!

I knotted my attitude and wobbled along for nearly a year, when at twenty-nine weeks into her pregnancy, Paula’s water broke and she and the family were air evacuated. Hours after we heard the news, I caught a plane to Hong Kong.

They didn’t know anyone in Hong Kong, and I didn’t either, except for my friend Chu Li’s mother. Jet-lagged and worried for Paula and the baby, I felt scared and anxious because Pete couldn’t meet me. I planned to wave Chu Li’s wedding photo frantically once I reached the lobby of the Lantau Airport, hoping that Chu Lin would recognize it and see me. I was totally dependent on a near stranger.

In the clamor, I spotted Chu Lin’s small waving hand holding a sign with my name. Chu Li’s mother hugged me—like family—and whisked me through the airport, onto a bus, under the harbor, into a taxi, and down a quiet street where I saw Pete holding our grandson and waving to me in the night. Relief, mixed with humble gratitude, welled inside me.

And I felt those emotions over and over during the next six weeks.

I learned that Pete and Paula’s colleagues had tended to my grandson, taken dinner to Pete and Paula, and packed the three small bags they were allowed to take on their flight. Others traveled to the city with additional clothing and items forgotten in their hasty exodus to Hong Kong. Another rushed into action and found an apartment we could rent for a month so we didn’t have to spend $200 a night for a hotel. Yet another woman—whose husband was recovering in the same hospital as Paula and our tiny new granddaughter—brought food, cleaning supplies, and toys for our grandson.

“Friend” was too glib a word to apply to these people. They cared; they traveled; they helped despite their own lives, schedules, and needs. They practiced unselfish, sacrificial love—the kind of love a family shows to each other.

I returned home with a deep understanding and heartfelt appreciation. Now, my son’s friends are like family to me, too. No more knots in my attitude. In fact, I even learned a new yo-yo trick in Hong Kong: I call it “Around the World!”

Rose M. Jackson

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