By Wayne Chan
When was the last time you experienced something joyful?
I’m not talking about your average, run-of-the-mill pleasantness, like discovering that your local grocery store just started stocking your favorite yogurt, or that moment of anticipation when your doorbell rings and you realize that your latest order from the good people at Amazon has finally arrived.
Those are both nice moments, but no, I’m talking about the sheer delight of an experience that is brand new, something that you’ve never experienced before.
Actually, the moment I’m thinking about was the joy I felt when that newfound experience happened to someone else. Hmm…maybe it would be better for me to take a moment and explain.
Recently, someone came into our lives who was born in China, but came to the U.S. as a baby. By all accounts, she was raised in a healthy, happy home and she’s turned into a lovely, mature, and conscientious young woman.
In getting to know her, we could all see that she lives her life and finds joy in the simplest things – the beauty of a bird in flight, the natural beauty of Mother Nature, the gentle waves of the ocean as you step into a sandy beach. When I say “simple”, it’s not to say that it’s basic or no big deal. Sometimes it’s the purity of an experience that takes your breath away.
In one of our conversations, she casually mentioned that even though she was born in China and was learning Chinese in school, that she had never had the opportunity to try Peking Duck. Living in a small town in the Midwest, she had just never come across it.
I think it would be a safe bet to say that everyone I know in my life has tried Peking Duck at least once in their lives, but for those of you out there who haven’t, Peking Duck is a slow-roasted duck that has been prepared where the skin is incredibly crispy and carved into slim slices of duck that can be placed in a white steam bun along with strands of green onions and a savory plum sauce. It’s one of my favorite Chinese dishes.
As you can imagine, when I heard that our friend had never tried this delectable dish before, it now became a priority of mine to rectify this situation. So, not too long after hearing of this, we went to one of our favorite Chinese restaurants which we knew had perfected this particular dish.
When the duck arrived, we carefully started assembling each bun with a slice of duck, the green onion, and the plum sauce. She took her first bite, and she looked up and said, “This is really good!”.
No, she didn’t jump up and down out of sheer delight. She didn’t plow into the duck as if she had been deprived her entire life. She took a few more bites and we all had a terrific rest of our meal.
She didn’t react as if she had just won the lottery, but that’s not the point. It had very little to do with the duck either. After all, I’ve had Peking Duck a hundred times and I like it, but having it a hundred and one times is really not going to be an amazing experience or even get me to write a column about it.
What I immediately discovered, is the joy that comes from making the effort to give someone else a moment of joy. In this case, it was the joy a friend experienced from going to a Chinese restaurant and trying something new. But the joy I’m really referring to is the one that I felt in making that experience happen for someone other than myself.
It immediately took me back to other experiences I’ve witnessed – the joy on my son’s face the first time he rode a bike for the first time, the joy of delivering a Christmas tree to a family who was having a tough time at the end of a tough year, or just making a few simple meals for a friend who was having some difficulties.
The joy you feel when you’ve done something nice for someone else just towers over the momentary gratification of buying a new car or going on an expensive vacation.
It’s a joy that really puts things into perspective.
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