People First

Early this year, the news about the Boston bombing shook the world. The tragedy not only injured over 250 innocent lives, but also killed three others, including a Chinese student. Perhaps because the victim is a Chinese—the only foreigner in the death toll, Chinese at home and abroad are paying attention to the incident.

Now three months have gone. While China is coping with its sorrow for another tragedy in which two young Chinese died in a plane crash in San Francisco, there is the news that the family of that Chinese graduate student killed in the Boston Marathon bombing will receive US$2.2 million compensation. You may have learned about this long before you read this article. But what I want to address is it shows how Americans value life—even a foreigner is no difference.

If one’s life can be measured by money, the compensation to the Chinese graduate student is overpaid by Chinese standards. The contrast of attitude toward life between China and America is drastic. I was not at the scene when the Boston bombing occurred. But for the following two weeks the national news showed touching images of strangers helping strangers selflessly in the surge of community feeling.

Not only that, upon the request of local officials, a foundation to assist victims and families affected—known as the Boston One Fund—was soon established right after the April 15 attack. Unlike the government-mandated US$7.1 billion fund for victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the entire fund for victims in the Boston Marathon bombing comes from private donations. Within a few months, the foundation has raised more than US$60 million for the victims and the families.

By comparison, a number of children who died in the Sichuan earthquake five years ago from the collapse of the shoddily built schools are still seeking compensation. Or, let’s say if someone got robbed on the street, will a Chinese be the first one to stop the thief? Or will he be to afraid and indifferent to help a stranger?

In China, I would not trust the drivers to let me cross the streets even though I have the right of the way. I am always warned I should look at the traffic but not the lights. In America, if you drive, for example, in the parking lot of a mall, you have to yield to the pedestrians. Even though you have the right of the way, say at the change of a traffic light, if a pedestrian passes by your car, you have to stop and let him or her go.

No matter from the current events or from my everyday life, I deeply feel the significance of “People First” in America. As Chinese often say, you should treat others as you want to be treated.


Filed under: Prose