September 9, 2018

Food for Thought

Today, I went to Myanmar Baptist Church Annual Fun Fair in Elmhurst, Queens. I won’t go into detail about the food; let’s just say they had a wide selection of great food. Swipe to see more. The “Fun” is not only in the title.

Whenever I see a tight community of people come together in this fashion, I feel envious. “Success” in the modern world, particularly in the US, is supposed to be about achieving independence and self-reliance. Even when we are gravely ill, if we are financially successful, our insurance would cover the medical bills, and we would have enough savings to weather these occasional misfortunes. We don’t need anyone.

But, ultimately, self-reliance and independence lead to isolation and loneliness. If we don’t need anything from anyone, we wouldn’t have meaningful ways to get to know one another. We can’t form close friendships through just playing bingos. We bond through overcoming hardships together, otherwise, our friendships would become superficial and fall apart at the slightest of conflicts.

The immigrants in New York have pressing need for each other, and this makes their communities tight. In the Chinatown parks, especially in the summertime, you would see Chinese people of all ages dancing, playing games, eating, and singing after work and school. You wouldn’t see rich white people congregating in this fashion, except for one demographic: the mothers with young children. Because infants and toddlers are a handful, even their wealth or technologies are not enough for them to be self-reliant. They have genuine needs for one another, which leads to genuine friendships. My wife rapidly made many close friends during that period of parenting.

t’s not that white people can’t form close communities; it’s just that most of them are too self-reliant. I’ve seen white expats in Japan form close friendships quickly too. We think of independence and self-reliance as virtues, but if we go too far, we forget how to ask for help, begin to feel like needing help is a disgrace, and lose the means to develop meaningful human relationships

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