Meeting a Younger Me

By Yi Yi
Translated by Wu Hsiao-ting
Photo by Huang Xiao-zhe

I lost touch with a fellow Tzu Ching, a member of the Tzu Chi Collegiate Association, after parting ways with her following a Tzu Chi camp over 20 years ago. Surprisingly, we recently crossed paths and reconnected at a Japanese-style tea house in Hualien, eastern Taiwan. Seated on tatami mats, we found ourselves immersed in a nostalgic conversation, reminiscing about our shared Tzu Ching experiences.

“Although we haven’t stayed in touch,” she said with a warm smile, “there’s something about you that has left a lasting impression.” Intrigued and slightly nervous, I wondered whether her revelation would be positive or otherwise. She went on, “During that camp years ago, we shared a dorm room with others, and you slept next to me….” Before she could finish, I hurriedly interjected, “Were you going to say I snored and kept you from sleeping?”

Her laughter filled the air as she reassured me, “No, not at all!” Then, she began to share a touching memory that gave me goose bumps. “One night, I returned to our room very late after a meeting. The room was pitch-dark, but in the darkness, I saw a strand of light green, glow-in-the-dark prayer beads on my bed, accompanied by a small card you had written: ‘I’m leaving a bit of light for you returning late at night.’ Your actions felt incredibly warm and considerate!”

She continued, “The next morning, I asked you about your thoughtful gesture. Explaining, you mentioned it was inspired by an older Tzu Chi volunteer who had shown you similar warmth. You had simply learned from her kindness, replicating her heartwarming act.” I was deeply moved, hearing her recount the incident. My cheeks flushed with the realization that a small gesture over 20 years ago had left a profound mark on someone’s heart and had now circled back to me.

My friend’s shared memory prompted deep reflection within me. Two decades ago, I was an innocent college student, a warm-hearted individual eager to share that warmth to those around me. Now, through someone else’s words, that younger version of myself seemed to transcend time and space, asking me, “Do you remember me, the warm and kind version of yourself? Have you held onto that compassionate heart? Do you still remember to think of others at all times? Have you continued to spread the goodwill others have showed you?”

Like the butterfly effect, a seemingly insignificant act can have far-reaching consequences. I no longer recall the identity of the Tzu Chi volunteer who originally left me the luminous prayer beads, but she was the warm starting point, setting the stage for what unfolded thereafter.

Dharma Master Cheng Yen often emphasizes that every act of kindness you perform will eventually find its way back to you. While we give without asking for anything in return, heaven uses its own way to remind us that generosity and sincere interactions with others ultimately benefit ourselves, yielding a harvest of warm emotions and joy.

After concluding our nostalgic conversation and bidding each other farewell, I reminded myself to carry forward the important life lesson she had taught me that day: “Remember the younger you and spread warmth the best you can!”

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