A few days after I arrived in Malawi, my temporary boss told us new-comers that we need to meet this Korean lady who can be a great help if we got acquainted. His description of her went something like this in this order.
“Her name is C. She’s married to a German-South African man. She knows a lot of people and she will help you if you have any struggles in dealing with processes including legal matters.”
My train of thought missed the track just for a second then I came back following what he was saying. I hardly thought anything about that day until today. Something wasn’t quite right. Why did he mention her husband’s nationality? Is marriage status of someone a common topic for introduction? Why did he mention it right after her name? Does she identify herself as a wife more than any of her quality? Why did he mention his origin with his nationality by the way? Was he afraid that audience might think her husband is black by only mentioning South Africa? Does her husband’s status have something to do with his topic of interest? Was he trying to tell us that her success had something to do with her husband being a white man?
Of course I’m thinking too much. No argument on that.
As I got to know her, I found that she’s a successful woman herself with great social skills and responsibilities. And I still wonder why he thought her husband had anything to do with her status. At the same time, I got to know the person who introduced her that day. I wouldn’t deny that my rambling thoughts weren’t after all false.
To be honest, I hate that she was introduced that way. I hate that he subtly expressed being white is something fancy to mention out of nowhere. I hate that his potentially trashy philosophy influenced on my impression of her or of anybody. And I believe many different versions of this introduction are out there manipulating the listeners implying her success is somehow related to her male husband.
So subtle that it lasted over a year in my head. Still worth a thought. Still confused.
Photograph: Mike Wilson
What does it mean to be kind to someone? I remember having learned to be kind but I don’t remember being taught what kindness is. Instead, my elementary school teacher told me to hold hand of someone who’s handicapped. She never told me why it’s a good thing or how it helps him feel better. 20 years later, I learned that kindness isn’t about holding hands and that it only discouraged me from showing the act of kindness.
How much do we know about empathy? Aren’t we unconsciously sympathising others by feeling pity towards them? Unfortunately, that’s just sympathy, not empathy. Because empathy is not a feeling, it’s an ability.