Several days ago, I invited my wife out for a meal at Hong Kong Harbor, a buffet-style restaurant that serves Chinese, Japanese, and Korean food.
Toward the end of our time at the eatery, a waiter dropped off two fortune cookies. I’ve gotten some really good advice and words of wisdom over the years, so I’m always eager to retrieve and read those little slips of paper embedded in those odd-shaped sweets. In fact, I have this ritual I practice on such occasions: If I like what I read, I eat the cookie and then keep the fortune, which I store away in my wallet. If the fortune is vapid and thus uninspiring—for example, my wife got one that said something like (I’m paraphrasing) the secret to success is trying hard—I don’t stick the cookie in my mouth and leave the little slip on the table.
I wouldn’t have eaten the cookie had I gotten the fortune she got. Mine read: “Be bold, brave, and forthright and the bold, brave, and forthright will gather round you.”
So, that’s not the best fortune I’ve ever received, but it was good enough. I ate the cookie and then secreted the little message on my person.
We are certainly seeing this little truism play out in Ukraine. Each brave act done by a citizen of that country is inspiring others to act similarly. Boldness and bravery are certainly contagious. Of course, cowardice and ugliness also catch on. I don’t expect that Putin will ultimately succeed in his grotesque endeavor; although, he will cause others to mete out much destruction and heartache in the days and weeks ahead.
Back in the winter and spring of 2011, I was living in Cairo, Egypt, exactly at the moment the citizens of that North African country collectively revolted against Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorial reign. I found myself swept up in all that emotion and decided to remain in the city as virtually all the other expats were fleeing. The brave denizens of the capital were amazingly strong and inspired me to be strong too. As law and order began to break down, I began to carry a weapon and patrolled our neighborhood from sundown to sunup. I had many terrifying experiences but never felt closer to my neighbors than I did then. It occurs to me now, as I think back on that amazing time of my life and the little slip I was given a few days ago, that one of the best ways to build community is to stand up tall, throw one’s shoulders back, and boldly step forward (or, if that’s too difficult to do, to watch for those who are taking these actions and to rally around them).
I guess I’m saying that birds of a feather really do flock together, don’t they? One of the reasons I’ve continued to enjoy working on college and university campuses is that I like being around intelligent and curious people. Being around such folks has helped me think about the value of attempting to be intelligent and curious.
So, it’s late on Sunday morning, and I’m running out of steam. I guess I should wrap this up.
I’ll do so by asking a few questions. What is the best fortune you’ve ever received in a fortune cookie (or what is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given)? Have you ever been inspired by those around you? If so, please share your story. Thanks for reading and responding.
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