Tomorrow evening, many families marking the Chinese New Year will be having a reunion dinner. This is considered the most important family dinner of the year that honours the virtues of family togetherness and harmony, filial piety, and respect for the hierarchy in familial relationships. This was explained to our children at our child development centre as we introduced what red packets, oranges and some cookies symbolised. Importantly, we also impressed on the children not to open their red packets in the presence of the giver after receiving them.
Festivals are enjoyable occasions to reflect on values and to deepen our appreciation of cultures and traditions. We tell our children that doing so helps us make more friends and festivals are good occasions to let our friends know that they are important to us. The Chinese New Year is about family, friendship, and prosperity for all.
I read on a website featuring all things Chinese that it has been predicted that The Year of the Rabbit will be a Year of Hope. Hence, I thought that I would share a story that happened many years ago that speaks to me about the value of hope.
A father was distraught and was adamant that his 14-year-old daughter no longer cared for her family and needed to be institutionalised for her safety and well-being. He explained that the family had received photographs of this girl slumped on a table with empty beer bottles and is heart-broken and at their wits end. Also, the police have picked her up near a red-light district a couple of times, but she runs off again soon after the family has escorted her back from the police station.
Perhaps, his daughter would eventually be institutionalised, we acknowledged, but let her do it on her own steam, we suggested. The role of the family was not to facilitate her path into an institution but to do their utmost to block it. The reasoning resonated with father, and he calmed down and agreed for us to help the family organise how they would care for the girl the next time the police picked her up.
Together with extended family and friends, mother worked out a schedule to watch over her daughter the next time they bring her back from the police station. Importantly, those on the schedule should be mindful not to chastise the girl but to simply hear her out and to express care and concern as best as they can. In support of the family’s efforts, a couple of my colleagues were on the schedule too.
This girl was accompanied home from the police station on Boxing Day and the plan was implemented. On our guidance, the family told her that she would be grounded at home for the same number of days that she had been missing. The aim of the message was to help the girl recognise the grounding imposed as her accountability to the family rather than a punishment.
I cannot remember the number of days she had to account for or if she completed the entire period, but I do remember that she was given a new set of clothes on the afternoon of Chinese New Year’s Eve and invited to join the family reunion dinner that evening, which she did.
Wishing you the blessings of family, friendships, and prosperity in every sense of the word.