A Tale of Two Brothers

Reinventing Your Life

(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



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。



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。









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 thoughts on “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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