Tag Archives: reflection

December 24th(s): A reflection of Silent Nights


[Pulled from a ‘shared’ picture on Facebook]


The picture above speaks volumes of truth for me.

I remember when, 9 years ago, I immigrated to the United States and spent my first Christmas with the family that welcomed mine with open arms into America. I spend almost every holiday with that family. Since I first arrived on American soil, the Lee’s have provided shelter, food, community and love. Mrs. Lee treated me like her daughter – a princess, considering that I was the only girl in the household. Our families lived together for one year before my family moved out of the Lee household and neighborhood to another town, but my parents willingly drive an hour every holiday – Chinese or American, to make it to the Lee house.

In the year of my first Christmas in the States, I remember writing a Christmas wishlist with the two younger Lee brothers (the eldest was in high school and “too cool” to join us, at least I thought so) and my own younger brother under the Christmas tree Mrs. Lee set up. It is a special and precious occasion, as it is both my first Christmas in the United States, and my first time writing a Christmas wish list – that was something neither I or my brother did in New Zealand, the country we immigrated from. As I wrote my list carefully, doing some erasing and crossing out of things I didn’t think I needed on my Christmas list, I felt truly happy. I was blessed to be in the company of those boys – all brothers to me, and I felt a camaraderie and bliss in writing our secret Christmas wishes, all of which would be fulfilled, not by Santa but by the adults.

A year later, my family would move out of the Lee household and discontinue to write Christmas wish-lists with the Lee brothers, but instead our families took turns inviting each other over for major holidays, not just Christmas. Together, our families celebrate Christmas, Chinese New Year, the Lunar Festival, Dragonboat Festival, Thanksgiving, the 4th of July. Together we talk of triumphs and misfortunes, joy and sadness amongst the adults over cards after delicious dinners of dumplings, glutinous sticky rice, steamed fish, home-made brownies, buttered corn (to name a few dishes) and celebrate our shared Chinese-American diaspora and identity.

The Lee parents, like my parents, are from China, however the Lee brothers are 2nd generation Americans and my brother and I are 1.5 generation – born in another country, specifically our country of ethnic origin, but immigrants of New Zealand however native English speakers and assimilated into American culture. Both our families celebrated the eldest Lee brother’s going to college and moving into his own apartment as well as my acceptance and departure to college almost two years ago. We exchange gifts at our triumphs and words of sympathy for a sick relative and mix our Chinese heritage and words into our American identity.

Going back to the picture, what I would really like for Christmas this year is to join the Lees in celebration, however the middle Lee brother, like my own younger brother, are writing their college applications and both their family and mine are hanging onto the suspense and pressure of the application process. Perhaps we will get to spend New Year’s at their house, or we will go to a Chinese restaurant to celebrate the end of the year. Best of luck to the both of them.

As for myself, I realize the importance of community and family – spending holidays with the Lees all these years has furthered my love and respect for Mrs. Lee and the Lee family. Many of my friends spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with extended family, however my family spends it with the Lees. They are family to us.




I guess I’m good at listening, if anything. You see, I’m an introvert and when I am having a conversation with someone most of the time, I will be the one hearing, nodding, absorbing. Sometimes I feel like a sponge. Sometimes I pretend to listen, and I’m pretty good at pulling it off until someone notices that I might be zoning off (not very often, I’m sort of a con-artist at this) and asks me what I think about what they just said.

What do I think?

That’s a question that isn’t directed to me very often, excluding my College colloquiums where the class is small enough that I can’t hide my presence or hide myself in my silence. I used silence in the past because it has been a tool for people to pay attention to me that something was wrong. Although it sounds like a plan that would backfire, my parents noticed, and they were not very receptive to that silence. I was also going through a hard time in school back then, and things are better now thanks for asking.

I think one of the worst things is to have someone ask you why you’re so quiet when 1. the person asking might not know what you’re going through at the time (and trust me, everyone has **** they’d rather not talk about) 2. if the person is hostile, they are (again) being inconsiderate of what you are going through or if you’d just rather not say anything at all. Nobody should be forced to do something they are uncomfortable with (unless it is an ethics issue or alas, homework or work related things). We should all be respected.

There is a time for everything, a time to be silent, a time to speak [Ecclesiastes 3:7]. Be silent when you need to be, and speak when you have to. I used writing as a way to help me get through my hard times in high school and I still use it to help me heal and cope with grief and loss. I also enjoy talking to friends and sometimes family because sometimes I have to analyze things in my life – that helps me heal, and it is healthy to get your emotions out there, even if it is a quiet way like drawing, writing, photography, meditation, self-reflection. Quiet is not synonymous with indifference (okay depends on context) and it is not always a bad thing. Let me mention that I do not enjoy small talk and prefer intellectual conversations. Great person to chat up at the bar, I know.

Sarcasm aside, I was listening to John Mayer’s Say what you need to Say the other day, and thought about how true it can be. The silence does not protect you, in the words of poet Audre Lorde. I have to disagree here because some things are better left unsaid, such as anything racist, homophobic or sexist but the people who are unfortunate enough to encounter anything such as the just-mentioned (pretty uncomfortable situation and yes, I have been a bystander if you’re wondering) should say something. The silence indeed will not protect you if you are wounded by anything or anyone. The hurt remains, and yes, I am saying this out of having experienced that hurt. There are also multiple ways to use “quiet” activities to help you heal, such as writing, etc. (see the previous list of things I mentioned).

There is a time for everything, a time to be silent and a time to speak (Ecclesiastes 3:7) 

I hope you and I find the right time to be silent and speak when we need to.

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