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(For reading in Chinese, please scroll down to the end of the English text.)

(For international readers, allow me to explain: I am an American but I have lived in China since 2004. My city of Chongqing, often abbreviated as CQ, is pronounced Chong Ching to rhyme with Wrong Ring. CQ is a megacity of 30 million people in south-central China, on the Yangtze River.)

It was a cool, rainy morning as Mr. Long set out for his daily walk through the neighborhood on the way to work. In the elevator, he recognized but did not speak to his neighbors who were also descending to go to work. Mr. Long did not like most of the adults he encountered. He thought they were stupid, easily tricked, and usually concerned with trivial, unimportant things. “The never learned how to think for themselves,” thought Mr. Long scornfully. The little children also irritated him with their brainless chatter, crying, and loud voices. The older people were the worst of all, in Mr. Long’s opinion. He disdainfully watched as they attempted to navigate through the modern world. Many of them could barely use an ATM machine; a computer or app on a smartphone was beyond their abilities. But they certainly could yell – as if the one who yelled loudest and longest was right. Mr. Long hated loud noises. To him, riding in an elevator with two grandmothers screaming at their grandchildren who were also yelling and crying was enough to make him cringe.

Photo by jwvein

On the sidewalk, Mr. Long opened his umbrella against the light autumn drizzle. Nothing to look at and nothing to get excited about, he observed. It was a dull, normal day. The guard at the gate to his building complex nodded politely, but Mr. Long did not acknowledge him. Little people, unimportant people – and this included just about everyone in Mr. Long’s opinion – did not deserve Mr. Long’s attention. He refused to waste his time on them. And all those people working in the restaurants! They were getting paid for taking his order and bringing his food. He was paying for his meal; he didn’t need to be nice to them. “And everybody! Please keep your smelly, messy, noisy pets away from me”, he thought

Mr. Long paused his walk to glare at a small dog that stopped in front of him, wagging his tail. The dog scurried away. Further down the block, Mr. Long proceeded quickly past a crippled beggar, looking the other direction. Continuing down the street, Mr. Long saw more things that met with his disapproval. Everything was disorganized, noisy, messy, and dirty. In Mr. Long’s opinion, those same terms could be used to describe almost every person he saw also. Mr. Long was a successful man by the standards of his community but he was not happy most of the time.

At the same time that morning, Mr. Long’s younger brother was also leaving his home. In many ways, the two brothers were quite similar. Both of them lived very conventional, quiet lives and both of them had done well enough with their careers that other people considered them successful.

Photo by masashiWakui

The younger Mr. Long also carried an umbrella, but he stepped out from his small apartment with a smile. The younger brother believed, if you look for good things in any situation, you can find them. He believed that everyone has made choices and decisions that have resulted in the life that they are currently living. The younger Mr. Long believed that most people were good most of the time. He expected people to be nice and that is what he usually found. Like this older brother, the younger Mr. Long also did not like loud noises. He did not like inefficiency, incompetence, or rude behavior. However, the younger Mr. Long was much more tolerant and patient and rarely grew upset. The younger Mr. Long often said to himself, “Don’t worry about the little things – and almost everything is a little thing.” Many times each day, when something happened because people were not thinking, he simply said to himself, “Each person does what they think is right, based upon their experiences, education, and expectations. I cannot control people; I can only control how I react to them. I have the freedom to choose how I respond to things that happen to me.” Like his older brother, there were many times when people did things the younger Mr. Long did not like. However, most of the time, the younger brother simply said, “It doesn’t matter,” and did his best to ignore the thing that was momentarily upsetting him.

That morning, leaving his building, the younger brother smiled at the children as they played happily – and noisily – on the sidewalk. Younger Mr. Long spoke to his neighbors when they met. He smiled and spoke to the guard at the building’s gate. He was always happy to help with little things like opening the door for people or holding an elevator if someone was hurrying to catch it. In the neighborhood restaurants. Mr. Long the younger was always recognized and welcomed because the restaurant people remembered that he smiled as they served him. He politely requested things that his older brother would haughtily demand.

Photo by joakant

Throughout the day, the younger brother found time to help people with little things that were only a small inconvenience for him, but which made life easier or simpler for the people around him. Even the grandmothers yelling at the small children did not upset the younger brother too much; it was just part of life, he thought. The younger brother spent his time doing things he could control, not being frustrated by things he could not control.

His older brother would never agree but the younger Mr. Long always carried a few coins to help the beggars when he encountered them. Moreover, he would smile and speak to the unfortunate ones. He treated them with respect and if his older brother asked him why he did that, the younger brother would simply say, “Some people need a little extra help. That gesture costs me very little but it helps them. Besides, it makes them feel better if you treat them with respect instead of disdain and silence.”

How ironic that both brothers had mild heart attacks that morning. They were struck down the same day, even the same hour. The older Mr. Long was far from his home when he suddenly felt himself growing weaker and he was unable to stand. As he collapsed on the sidewalk, people in the neighborhood tried to help him. But no one made a special effort, because, to them, the older Mr. Long was not a very nice man. He had no friends nearby to help him.

The younger Mr. Long, in comparison, had always made a special effort to treat everyone with kindness and with respect. This morning, it was one of the beggars he had helped by donating some of his pocket money and unused clothes who happened to see the younger Mr. Long as he stumbled and fell to the ground. The beggar recognized the man and immediately rushed to see if he could help. Several other people also knew him and had been the recipients of his kind gestures in the past. They made the younger Mr. Long comfortable and immediately summoned medical assistance and the police. They stayed with him until the ambulance arrived and they notified his family. Several went to the hospital with him to make sure he was not alone in the hospital.

Both brothers survived their heart attack and both lived for many more years, but the younger brother was given better care and attention and received faster treatment because people in the community that he has served for so long were now serving him.

Photo by Gerd Altmann

What did the brothers learn from their experience? Did they change as a result of their sudden simultaneous reminder of their own mortality? We don’t know; that will be their choice. Any changes will be for another story, which they are continuing to write each day, just as each of us writes our own life stories.  

Is there a moral to the tale of two brothers? Not really. We find the life that we expect to find. We see what we expect to see. But that means the quality of life that we experience will be determined by our attitude and our behaviors and has nothing to do with external circumstances. Victor Frankl said this freedom to choose how we respond to situations in life was the last human freedom; it could not be taken away from us.

It is true; in a few years, both brothers will be gone. We all will be gone someday. However, one brother spends his life miserable and lonely and the other brother meets each day with a smile and that smile is always returned to him a thousandfold. In the future, on their last day, both brothers will finally realize what the Beatles meant when they sang, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

Photo by mohamed Hassan

两兄弟的故事

那是一个凉爽的雨天早晨,龙先生每天上班途中在小区里散步。在电梯里,他认出了同样下楼上班的邻居,但没有和他们说话。龙先生不喜欢他遇到的大多数成年人。他认为他们很愚蠢,容易被骗,而且通常关心的都是一些琐碎的、不重要的事情。”他们从来没有学会如何为自己考虑。”龙先生轻蔑地想。小孩子们的无脑唠叨、哭闹和大嗓门也让他恼火。在龙先生看来,老年人是最糟糕的。他不屑地看着他们试图在现代世界中穿行。他们中的许多人几乎不会使用ATM机;电脑或智能手机上的应用程序超出了他们的能力范围。但他们当然可以大喊大叫–仿佛喊得最响、时间最长的人是对的。龙先生讨厌吵闹的声音。对他来说,坐电梯的时候,两个奶奶对着同样大喊大叫的孙子大哭大闹,足以让他感到恶心。

人行道上,龙先生顶着微微的秋雨撑开伞。他观察到,没有什么好看的,也没有什么值得兴奋的。这是个平淡无奇的普通日子。他的楼群门口的保安很有礼貌地点了点头,但龙先生没有承认他。小人物,不重要的人–在龙先生看来,这几乎包括所有人–不值得龙先生关注。他拒绝在他们身上浪费时间。还有那些在餐厅工作的人! 他们因为接受他的命令,给他送饭而得到报酬。他是花钱买饭的,他不需要对他们好。”还有大家! 请让你们那些又臭又脏又吵的宠物离我远一点。”他想道。

龙先生停下散步的脚步,瞪着一只停在他面前摇着尾巴的小狗。那条狗飞快地跑开了。再往下走,龙先生快步走过一个瘸腿的乞丐,看向另一个方向。继续往下走,龙先生看到了更多令他不赞同的事情。一切都是杂乱无章、嘈杂、凌乱、肮脏。在龙先生看来,这些同样的词汇也可以用来形容他看到的几乎每一个人。按照社会的标准,龙先生是一个成功的人,但他在大多数时候并不快乐。

当天上午同一时间,龙先生的弟弟也要离家出走。在很多方面,兄弟俩都很相似。他们都过着很传统、很平静的生活,他们的事业也都做得很好,别人都认为他们很成功。

年纪较小的龙先生也打着伞,但他从自己的小公寓里走出来时,却带着微笑。弟弟相信,只要你在任何情况下寻找好的东西,你都能找到。他相信,每个人都曾做出过选择和决定,才有了现在的生活。弟弟龙先生相信,大多数人在大多数时候都是好的。他期望人们都是好的,这是他通常发现的。和这位哥哥一样,小龙先生也不喜欢吵闹的声音。他不喜欢效率低下、无能或粗鲁的行为。然而,年轻的龙先生更宽容和耐心,很少生气。年轻的龙先生经常对自己说:”不要担心小事–几乎所有的事情都是小事。” 每天很多时候,当因为人们没有思考而发生一些事情时,他只是对自己说:”每个人都会根据自己的经验、教育和期望,做自己认为正确的事情。我无法控制人们,我只能控制我对他们的反应。我有自由选择如何应对发生在我身上的事情。” 和哥哥一样,有很多时候,人们做的事情小龙先生也不喜欢。不过,大多数时候,弟弟只是说:”无所谓。”对于一时让他不爽的事情,他尽量不去理会。

那天早上,离开他的楼房时,弟弟对孩子们笑了笑,他们在人行道上快乐地–吵吵闹闹地玩耍。年轻的龙先生和邻居们见面时说话。他微笑着和楼道口的保安说话。他总是很乐意帮忙做一些小事,比如给人开门,或者在有人急着赶电梯的时候扶着电梯。在附近的餐馆里。小龙先生总能被人认出来,受到欢迎,因为餐厅的人都记得他微笑着为他服务。他礼貌地要求哥哥会傲慢地要求的东西。

整天,弟弟都会抽出时间帮助别人做一些小事,这些小事对他来说只是小小的不便,但却能让周围的人生活得更轻松或简单。即使是奶奶们对小孩子的吼叫,也没有让弟弟太过难过,他认为,这只是生活的一部分。弟弟把时间花在做他能控制的事情上,而不是被他不能控制的事情所挫折。

他的哥哥绝对不会同意,但年轻的龙先生在遇到乞丐时,总会带着几个硬币去帮助他们。而且,他还会微笑着和那些不幸的人说话。他对他们很尊重,如果哥哥问他为什么这样做,弟弟就会简单地说:”有些人需要一点额外的帮助。这个举动让我付出的代价很小,但却能帮助他们。此外,如果你以尊重的态度对待他们,而不是蔑视和沉默,会让他们感觉更好。”

多么讽刺的是,兄弟俩当天早上都有轻微的心脏病发作。他们是在同一天,甚至是同一个小时被击倒的。年长的龙先生在离家很远的地方,突然感到自己越来越虚弱,无法站立。当他倒在人行道上时,附近的人都想帮他。但没有人特别努力,因为在他们看来,龙老先生不是一个很好的人。他附近没有朋友来帮助他。

相比之下,年轻的龙先生总是特别努力地善待每一个人,尊重每一个人。今天上午,就是他捐出一些零花钱和闲置的衣服帮助过的一个乞丐,在年轻的龙先生跌倒在地时,正好看到了他。乞丐认出了这个人,立即赶来看看能不能帮忙。还有几个人也认识他,过去也曾受过他的好意。他们让年轻的龙先生舒服了一些,并立即叫来了医护人员和警察。他们一直陪着他,直到救护车到来,他们通知了他的家人。几个人和他一起去了医院,以确保他在医院里不是一个人。

两兄弟都从心脏病发作中活了下来,而且都多活了很多年,但弟弟得到了更好的照顾和关怀,得到了更快的治疗,因为他长期服务的社区里的人现在正在为他服务。

兄弟俩从他们的经历中学到了什么?他们有没有因为突然同时提醒自己的死亡而改变?我们不知道;这将是他们的选择。任何改变都将是为了另一个故事,他们每天都在继续书写,就像我们每个人书写自己的人生故事一样。 

两兄弟的故事有什么寓意吗?其实不然。我们找到了我们期望找到的生活。我们看到了我们期望看到的东西。但这意味着我们体验到的生活质量将由我们的态度和行为决定,与外部环境无关。维克多-弗兰克尔说,这种选择如何应对生活中的情况的自由,是人类最后的自由;它不能被剥夺。

这是真的,再过几年,两位兄弟都会离开。我们总有一天都会离开。然而,一个哥哥一生都在痛苦和孤独中度过,另一个哥哥每天都在微笑着迎接,而这微笑总会千百倍地回报给他。在未来的最后一天,两兄弟终于会明白披头士乐队唱的 “到最后,你所承受的爱等于你所付出的爱 “是什么意思。

2 Replies to “A Tale of Two Brothers”

  1. Hi Randy, glad to read your new blog.
    The story is very meaningful, since we live in the same world and normal life, but the way we see the world and the attitude we treat our life and people around us determined how our life is. Smile and positive attitude toward life is important for all of us. Every coin has two sides, hope all of us can see the positive side and have a good life.
    Hope you well.

  2. Although the two brothers are born in the same family, they possess sharply different attitudes towards people surrounding them, because they have different perceptions on the definition of success. Sometimes, we are too anxious to enjoy tiny things placidly, the ambition of pursuing profits and reputation takes up our mind and heart that we cannot treat others in a gentle way. But what you get is what you pay. No man is an island in this world. We all need help of others in some emergencies, relatives far away from you can’t be compared with your neighbors, it’s significant for us grasp the art of dealing with interpersonal relationships and respect others. What’s more, smile is always the best medicine for curing conflicts and unpleasantness.

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