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One event in China changed the course of my life

By Sava Hassan | | Updated: 2017-09-13 07:28

Sava (center) with his chinese english teachers. [Photo provided to]

I was waiting with dread for the age at which I reached the hard phase of my life, retirement. Some may argue that it is the time during which one can enjoy life but it is my prerogative to dispute their claim.

Most Canadians, I think, look forward to retirement as much as they anticipate a visit to the dentist for a root canal operation, a very painful surgery.

They are aware of the fact that at one future point, their dear children, tired of handling the responsibility of taking care of them, will put them in retirement or senior citizens homes. They will spend the rest of their lives waiting to die while being bored to death.

It is a well-known fact that 60 years is the retirement age for men in China while 55 is its counterpart for women. From the above description, one can deduct the reasons behind my being petrified of reaching the age of 60.

Being an active individual who abhors being idle, I dreaded the thought of having to sit at home and wait to die. Fortunately, for me, an event took place in 2010 that played a major role in changing my attitude about life in general and retirement in particular.

I was teaching at a high school in Xingtai, Hebei. As Mother's Day approached that year, I decided to hold a party for the students and their parents, if it was possible for the fathers to attend but I recommended that their mothers ought to come too.

With the help of the Chinese and foreign teachers, I planned to hold a contest for the most thoughtful and original gift that a student can create for his or her mom to present to her during the party.

To be frank, I was skeptical pertinent to the possibility of persuading my students to inform their parents about the party. However, I was pleasantly surprised that most of the parents took time off their busy schedule to come.

My plan included permitting each student to stand up in front of the class and freely express his or her feeling toward his or her mother. Some of my students were considerate enough to make their speeches in both English and Chinese. For those who obliged by giving their speeches in English, Chinese English teachers acquired the much-needed spirit of generosity to handle the task of translation.

I observed in awe as my shy students got rid of their timidity to stand elegantly while they eloquently and emotionally expressed their genuine love for their mothers while the mothers could not hold back their tears from being overjoyed by the tender words of their children.

Frankly, I could not hold back my own tears of feeling extremely proud of my students and also both the management of the school and their teachers. Furthermore, I was set for another surprise when I asked the students to present their handmade gifts to their mothers while all teachers attempted to select the most creative and original gift.

I was deeply moved by their creativity that I decided to award each student a symbolic monetary gift.

At the end of the events, most parents expressed their gratitude to all of us, which affected me to the degree that I promised to repeat the event as long as I would be teaching at the school or other schools.

The management of the school promised to emulate my kind gesture at future festive events at the school regardless of my whereabouts.

On that night, on my way home, I was on cloud nine feeling the emotional fulfillment of being a participant in bringing my students and their families closer together.

I do believe that one must be granted the privilege to pose the following question: "How did China and Chinese change the course of your life through one event?" Of course, I would be more than delighted to oblige and satisfy their curiosity.

That night, I made a solemn promise to myself, that as long as there is blood running in my veins, I will exert every possible effort to find a teaching position, even if on a voluntary basis. I also took a vow to use my future teaching assignments to make a positive difference in the lives of my students.

That night changed my attitude toward life in general and retirement in particular. I realized that I don't have to stay home. I can share my knowledge with my students through teaching at schools, privately or through voluntary work.

Without the generosity of China and its distinguished citizens, I would not have had the opportunity to teach and subsequently the party would not have taken place and I would be terrified of retirement and its boredom.

After that event, in the last five years, I was fortunate enough to land teaching positions in provinces that have 65 as the age limit.

I am certain that I will never be complacent sitting home. Instead, I will continue to make positive differences in the lives of the Chinese people through my teaching and writing.

Finally, I must acquire sufficient grace to express my eternal gratitude toward the Chinese people for their generous spirit that welcomed me to be a part of their society. I also would like to thank China Daily for giving me the opportunity to write this article.


Sava with his students in Xingtai, North China's Hebei province. [Photo provided to]



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