This past week, I heard a story from my mentor that really left a lasting impression on me. The story seems normal at first, but there is a plot twist at the end, and I love the story's morale. Below is the story.
Mr. Qiuyu Yu (余秋雨) is a well-respected contemporary writer in China. When he was working on a book called “Searching for Germany”, he actually went to live in Germany in order to deeply experience life in this country.
He found a room on the fifth floor of a rental apartment from a friendly old German landlord. After he inspected it, he liked it a lot and wanted to sign a long-term rental contract immediately.
The old man smiled and said, “Yong man, you haven’t lived here yet. You don’t know for sure whether or not you will like it. Why don’t you sign a short-term contract first? After you personally experience living here, you can decide whether you want to sign a long-term contract or not.”
Mr. Yu agreed and signed a five-day contract first. The room was very cozy, and even though he lived on the fifth floor, he didn’t need to bring the garbage down. All he had to do was leave his garbage bag outside his door, and the cleaning staff would pick it up every day to ensure the corridors were clean. The landlord is a very trusting person, so he made any surprise visits to check on his tenant.
On the fifth day, Mr. Yu was thoroughly satisfied. He called the landlord and told him he wanted to sign a long-term rental contract. The landlord said, “Sure, I’ll come over later today with the contract.” Mr. Yu was excited.
Then, something terrible happened. He accidentally broke an expensive-looking glass vase in the room.
He was worried that the landlord would rescind the offer due to his clumsiness, so with a heavy heart, he called the landlord and told him what happened. To his surprise, the landlord said, “It’s alright, I know you didn’t mean to do it, and at least you didn’t get hurt. The vase is not that expensive. I’ll bring a replacement later.”
Mr. Yu was relieved and eagerly awaited the old man to bring the contract. In the meantime, he decided to clean up the broken glass, put it in the garbage bin, and put it outside the room. Soon after, the old man arrived.
Before Mr. Yu had a chance to speak, the old man asked, “Where are the broken pieces of the vase?” Mr. Yu said, “Oh, I cleaned it up and put it outside in the garbage bin.”
The old man hurried outside, opened the garbage bag, looked inside, then came back into the room with a gloomy face. He told Mr. Yu, “You can move out tomorrow. I will not rent this house to you anymore.”
Mr. Yu was stunned.
He asked, “Is it because I broke your favorite vase?”
The old man shook his head and replied, “No, it’s because you don’t have anyone else in your heart other than yourself.”
Hearing this, Mr. Yu was confused. Then he saw the old man get a broom, tweezers, pen, and garbage bags, went outside to the garbage bin, and re-organized the garbage. The old man carefully picked out all the glass fragments, put them in a separate garbage bag, and wrote a label on that bag saying, “Caution: Glass Fragments Inside.” He then put all the other garbage in another bag and labeled it saying, “Safe.”
Mr. Yu finally understood, and he felt nothing but admiration and respect for this old man. In the following years, he frequently shared this story with others, and each time, he couldn’t help but sigh.
Who would you rather be friends with, Mr. Yu or the old landlord? Yet, who are we more similar to?
If we want happier relationships, more harmonious families, and a more peaceful world, we need more people like the old landlord, people who are always considerate of their impact on others. The best person to start with is ourselves. If we can be more like that considerate old man, we will certainly influence the people around us, just like how that old man inspired Mr. Yu.
Lao Tzu said,
"View others' gains as my own gains. View others' losses as my own losses."
At first, I thought, “Why should I bother about other people’s happiness? That’s their business. I should just take care of my own happiness.”
To which my mentor replied:
"If only you are happy, but the people around you are unhappy, how long will your happiness last? If only you are healthy, but all the people around you have the flu, how long will it be until you catch the flu? Therefore, caring for others is caring for ourselves."
I then learned that a person who has a considerate heart will show that consideration with every action, whether it be
Sorting the garbage (carefully)
Speaking (kind of beneficial words)
Eating (food that is healthy so that loved ones wouldn’t worry)
Sleeping (early so that loved ones don't need to worry)
Wearing clothes (that are appropriate for their position and situation)
Cooking (food that others enjoy and is healthy)
Buying groceries (that are local or organic to benefit the environment)
If everyone used a considerate heart in their daily life, imagine how much happier and more harmonious our relationships would be. Not only would we be happier, our society would be more peaceful too! So let's do our part to cultivate a considerate and kind heart in our daily actions.
Weekly Wisdom #212