The upcoming Lunar New Year will fall on Feb. 8. It is the beginning of the Year of the Fire Monkey. According to the Chinese Zodiac, Monkey is a smart, naughty, resourceful and vigilant animal. Maybe it is also the reason that we often see the image of the three monkeys: one covering its mouth with its hands, one covering its eyes and one covering its ears. The image of the three monkeys signifies the Confucian moral precept: that one should select properly what to say, what to see and what to hear.
Judicious selection, with the guidance from parents and teachers, is particularly important in our formative years; it will help form our value system and tune our moral compass. The same moral precept also encourages us to continue to shape and strengthen our own moral character on account of our human frailty. In our effort to better ourselves and to expand ourselves to others, we learn to embrace our own strengths and weaknesses and to find the faith and conviction in our own humanity.
Just like the Monkey King in the classic fictional novel "Journey to the West" that is beloved by Chinese children, we live through our life's journey by maturing from a self-serving and mischievous Monkey King to a selfless protector of the Buddhist Monk who represents the Virtues.
I can still remember my first internship at "Jobs for Youth" in Boston. It is a nonprofit organization with a mission to help runaway children complete their GED, enroll in regular or trade colleges and become independent individuals. As an intern, part of my responsibilities was to compile a personal profile for each child and to prepare them for their graduation.
During the process, I had the opportunity and privilege to learn each of their life stories and, I must say that it was a most humbling experience for a young intern. Many of the graduates had gone through the most adverse conditions, and sometimes they were the consequence of their own wrong choices. The graceful thing is that all of the graduates managed to pull themselves up, with the support of mentors at "Jobs for Youth" and more importantly with their faith and conviction in themselves that it can be done. To me, it is the shining of the grace in our humanity.
To the monkeys in all of us, there is always the next step to go forward as we continue to make our life's choices. In the coming year, I hope that we shall take a more active role in speaking of kindness, looking for opportunities to offer our care and listening to the needs of others.