“If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.
If you want happiness for a month, get married.
If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone else.”
This past Christmas was a very special one.
Firstly, my lovely cousin came back from New York City (oh, I could just smell the air of freedom from her) to celebrate her status as a newly wed with all the family members in Taiwan. It was an amazing week as we ate and travelled all around Taiwan.
Also, it was my first Christmas in a long time spent in Taiwan.
I’m currently serving my substitute military service in a small public primary school called Chang Hsing Elementary School, located in Qidu, Keelung, Taiwan. Qidu is actually where both my parents are from, and where my grandparents still live. Maybe it was destiny or maybe it was luck that I get to see my grandparents almost everyday now, but either way, it’s nice.
I’m working as part English Teaching Assistant and part Administrative Assistant to the school, so my daily tasks range from English speech competition training camps to delivering paperwork to the city council. I also get to play with the kids from time to time. It’s never boring here.
It’s always been kind of a tradition for the substitute military guys to deliver a Christmas presentation to the entire school for cultural awareness purposes, and to be honest, you can only talk so much about Christmas without it being boring, right?
I wanted to bring Secret Santa to the school, but considering the family backgrounds of some of the students here, making them buy presents for other students just wasn’t ideal. Also, the real meaning of Christmas isn’t about receiving but actually giving the presents, right? Happiness is the greatest when you give, not receive, and we wanted to show that to the kids.
So we came up with ‘Secret Angel,’ and it is the following:
A week before Christmas Day, we distributed small Christmas cards to every student and assigned them to write down one thing they remember being helped or being inspired by someone else. The teachers would also give a couple of examples for them to brainstorm and grasp an idea of what’s expected. This is for them to identify a positive influence in their life.
The following Monday, the teachers would ask the students to share their stories with their peers. This is to celebrate other people’s involvement and help in our lives.
Then, the students would draw from a already-prepared box filled with names of the students in the class. They are to be this person’s ‘Secret Angel.’ Their mission during this week before Christmas Day is to help and/or inspire this person with the exact positive act written in their own cards that they’ve just shared with their peers. This is to teach them to pay forward the positive outputs.
On Christmas Day, each class would come around the school Christmas Tree and have the students take turn revealing their ‘Secret Angel’ to celebrate the good deeds they’ve done. After they share their stories with their peers, they’re given praise and confirmation by both the teachers and the students. Then, they hang their cards onto the tree for everyone in the school to read.
Seeing the kids get very excited to share, listen, and to hang their cards is such a warm feeling. They’re smiling when they’re sharing their stories with everyone, and the smiles get even bigger when their Secret Angel responds “I knew it was you! Thank you!” because their actions are recognized and even celebrated.
I hope they’ve learned a thing or two during this week, but most importantly I hope I can keep paying forward all the good deeds in my life myself.