October 2008

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The Friendly Series: Preamble

It is said that a hug is worth a thousand words, and a friend is worth more. It is said that friends are those who know plenty about you, and decide to like you anyway. It is said that friends are those who are there for you when they could rather be anywhere else. And, it is said that friends are the most important ingredients in life.

When you are young, friends were easy to come by: your father, your classmates, your neighbors – and anyone who is willing to be your playmate. As time passes, and as we grow, friendship might have taken on new meanings. But, at the heart of friendship is a pair who will partake in one another’s life: sometimes towards encouragement, sometimes to catch each other from falling, and many a times yielding a wealth of influence.

With that preamble, the next series of postings are dedicated to the most influential friends in my life: friends who knew plenty about me, but gave their hugs anyway.

Guardian Angel 

One day, while in first year, I ran into a frizzly haired girl. We started chatting, and soon enough, I learned of her proud cooking skills. The hungry freshman that I was, half jokingly asked: "Will you cook for us tonight?" She said: "Sure!"

Dinner was gorgeous, of course. Little had I known that this frizzly haired girl with her rather timid demeanors would go on to become one of my dearest and most influential friends.

Come the following semester, we were taking four courses together and became study partners. She helped me with Math and I helped her with programming. When we pulled an all nighter, we took turns napping. Late nights were customary in those days, and there was a time that was particularly stressful for us. One night, while studying for a midterm, a fever overcame me. That night, she took care of me. She borrowed medication from a neighbor and wringed a cold towel to calm the fever. The next morning, she prepared us breakfast, and we went to write the midterm. We then had another midterm, and then there were the assignments. During that stretch of time, she held me up.

When my father passed away midway through undergrads, she was the first school mate I informed of the incident. That day, she gave me a warm hug, silent companionship, and words of comfort. She told me that it was not easy living without one’s parents – she had rarely seen hers since attending high school out of town. The conversation evolved towards the hardships we had experienced. This was a friend with whom I could speak of just about anything, and honest sentiments were exchanged. I learned that this lovely young lady, who had cooked for me and cared for me, had not lived an easy life.

Some time later, she decided to room and board at my place. We were a room apart, and often held lively discussions after dinner. Sometimes I jumped onto her bed and we watched Friends together. Sometimes she dropped by to see how I was doing with my assignments. One night, I was awakened by a shrill cry and there she was, at my door, looking ghastly – she had a nightmare and was seeking protection. She asked me to check whether there was a snake in her bed. There was not. By that time she had calmed down and begun to apologize. I said: you wouldn’t apologize to family, would you? – Family, that is what you have become.

Around that time, we ended up in graduate school one after another. Early in my graduate studies, there was a time when I was confronted with issues that were becoming overwhelming, and I contemplated giving up. She told me of her life story in graduate school, and those of others, and helped me realize that many students go through tough times in the graduate system, some with experiences far more difficult. She also told me that she had faith in God, and believed that life is fair. She said, hard work will reap its rewards, and renewed me with energy to overcome the toughest period in my graduate career.

When I was sick, she cared for me. When I was hungry, she cooked for me. When I was down, she spoke with patient encouragement. In more ways than one, she had been my guardian angel, and over the years, I learned from her many simple gestures to care for friends in need – sometimes it meant doing their dishes, sometimes a back message, and sometimes, just by being there. She has given me much and influenced me much. Some day, I hope to serve her the way she had served me.


Tai Meng | 孟泰 | Last Updated: May 01, 2013