Life Is In Our Hands

Ever since I was young, I have learned the Chinese proverb ‘We are the people who steer the boat of the life’. Whenever I was assigned to write an essay about what I wanted to be, I always added this proverb in my writing. However, I never understood what it really meant. Instead, I found I could barely keep my head above water in the stream of life.

Last January we heard the sad news that Margret, Dr. Provvidenti’s wife, had passed away. I tried to persuade Shyi-Dong to go back to America to visit him. Dr. Provvidenti is a professor we revere and he has played a very important role in Shyi-Dong’s research work. However, Shyi-Dong couldn’t make the trip because he was caught up in an overwhelming workload, so I made the trip by myself.

In the small town of Geneva, NY, I met Dr. Provvidenti who is nearly 90. Since he just lost his wife and had brain surgery recently, he confined himself to home, alone. Fortunately, he has lots of friends whom he helped or socialized with in the past keeping an eye on him. In addition, his children take good care of him because the Provvidentis have kept close family bonds due to its Italian background. Dr. Provvidenti is a veteran of World War II. He became a scientist after he worked in a lab. Then he moved to America, married an American woman, and became a world famous scientist. Indeed, Dr. Provvidentis has had a dramatic life. He changed his life from a soldier to a top world scientist because he steered his boat carefully.

Geneva is like our second home town. When we lived there, we were the only Chinese family, so we were showered with friendship from our American friends. Twenty-some years ago, no one knew what kind of life we would have. But, now that we are all getting old it is like reading the last few chapters of a novel, we can almost tell what the ending will be.

After listening to all the friends’ catch-up, I feel that I finally understand why we are the people who steer the boat of life. Twenty years ago, we were very much the same with each other. We worked or studied in the academic field, had a small family, lived simple and financially tight lives. Now everyone has developed their individual stories. Some are successful in terms of their family, career or finance. Some are miserable.

I am very happy to hear all the good news about our friends, but I feel sad for those friends sometimes have to deal with bad news.. All of a sudden, I realized that Shy-Dong and I are steering our own boat, and our lives are truly in our hands.

Bih-Hua Chen
Feb. 9, 2009