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Tales of gratitude and its absence

Updated: 2012-06-05 13:54
By Zhao Huanxin ( chinadaily.com.cn)

Is gratitude being imparted from one generation to another? And when did ungratefulness begin to take root in human nature?

These are the questions I asked myself after three incidents that involved both children and adults, life and death over the past few days. Each of the stories has someone acting obligingly in it but not all of them received due appreciation.

The first story concerns a 6-year-old girl, who boarded subway No 5 at the Yonghegong Lama Temple Station early on Tuesday morning with her father.

She staggered as the train rumbled forth so a middle-aged woman stood up and let the girl have her seat. She took it without a word or even without bothering to look up at the kind woman. Her father, instead, murmured "Thank you".

Well, I almost burst out with these words: "Why don't you teach your child to say thank you on her own behalf?" Help will surely multiply in her life if she learns to recognize every bit of kindness.

The 6-year-old held a slip of paper with English phrases and expressions alongside Chinese translations. Apparently she was busy learning something her family thinks is more important to her than learning to be grateful.

I restrained myself from saying that it might not be a good way to learn English by comparing the languages word for word, especially at such a tender age.

Upon coming to the office, I read a piece of news from Tianjin, a municipality east of Beijing, in which two young ladies accidentally slid into a lake in the city's Xigu Park on Sunday morning. They were rescued by a passer-by. Chinanews.com.cn reported that a middle-aged man jumped into the water, grabbed the pair and led them to the shore.

Incredibly, the two women cried for a while and left without saying a solitary word of thanks to the man. Some bystanders urged the ladies to at least meet their rescuer, who had his mobile phone drenched and destroyed by the water, but they ran away.

I was almost indignantly in despair until I came to the story of the hero driver Wu Bin in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province.

Wu, 48, was driving a bus carrying 24 passengers on a highway on May 29 when he was struck by a flying piece of metal weighing about 5 kilograms that smashed through his windshield, according to local news reports.

Han Weichun, one of the passengers, recalled on Monday that despite having suffered severe injuries, Wu managed to bring the vehicle to a secure halt and then said in a low voice: "Don't panic. Just get off one by one and stand by the roadside." Wu died in a hospital on Friday from his injuries.

Han and other passengers visited Wu's home — some of them having traveled a long distance — to offer their thanks. They joined thousands of people to show their last respects to Wu on Monday. The three stories that involved a child, two young women and a man were equally traumatic for me. Things sometimes happen quite unexpectedly in our lives. But shouldn't we expect gratitude to be part of them? And isn't learning to be grateful a more important lesson in life than most of our curriculum?