by Lynn Christianson
I’m a young American woman, living in Taiwan and teaching English. It’s sometimes very lonely and frustrating when I can’t speak Chinese very well and still don’t know many people.
One night, I was riding my bicycle home on a small, dark, back road. I noticed that the key for the elevator in my building had fallen off my keychain. The key was dark gray. I did my best to search without being hit by cars, but couldn’t see anything.
I hesitated to ask anyone to stop because I wouldn’t know how to communicate with them. It was so late that I couldn’t call anyone even if I had money with me. So I just kept looking, without any clue where I dropped it. It was my only way in the building. I was getting very tired.
At one point a man on a scooter turned around when he saw me. I did my best to show him what I was looking for. He said some things I didn’t understand and drove away quickly. I was a bit confused, so I just kept looking. About ten minutes later he came back, handed me a small flashlight, motioned that he had to go, and sped away.
What a nice small gift to offer not only a stranger, but a small woman foreigner in the middle of the night! It didn’t give much light, but it helped me see where my key wasn’t. And it made me feel a little better. On I searched.
About ten minutes after that a car pulled up, and the same attempt to communicate took place. The man backed his car up and turned his lights on bright. Then he and I, with my small flashlight in hand, continued to search for the key. I’m sure the flashlight wasn’t helping more than the headlights, but having it made me feel more secure. He stayed with me until I found the key, and then departed.
Neither of the men had to stop, especially the one who was in a hurry — and he went out of his way to bring me a flashlight. Who knows if I would have found the key or what I would have done if I hadn’t. All one can do in an emergency is hope that someone else will come to your rescue. Someone always seems to, even if that someone is in the form of a little flashlight.
I learned most assuredly that language does not have to be a barrier in communication. I think about those men every time I use the elevator, and still have the flashlight. Immediately after the event I asked myself if I had ever done such a thing for someone; I hope so. I also hope I will always try to shed a little light for someone else whenever the opportunity arises.