Monday, June 30, 2008

My charge

     Back in college, my school department had this special service for freshmen--each newcomer was assigned a sophomore who would answer questions and provide advice about the school and classes. I, of course, took this service when I was a freshman and found it quite helpful.

     The next year, it was my turn to help our fellow freshmen. One was assigned to me. All of us met up at a cafeteria and I told my charge “do”s and “don't”s. I thought I'd done my job and that should be the end of it. One day, my charge came to me and asked if he could talk to me in private. So, we walked to an empty classroom, sat down, and he started to tell me what was on his mind.

     He said he had a younger brother who was a bipolar. Because of his brother's mental condition, his whole family was in turmoil and his parents were really exhausted. He told me he really wanted to be a doctor, so he could at least help his family out. I thought he was looking for my guidance, so I suggested he could take “the Test” again and see if he could go to a medical school next time. To my surprise, this WAS his second time; he was admitted to another college the year before and didn't quite like it. Of course, the main reason was that it wasn't a medical school.

     Really, it was overwhelming because I'd never experienced anything like his, especially his bipolar brother. I tried my best to offer suggestions, and of course he had considered those. I felt hopeless that there was nothing I could do. In the end, he thanked me and said it helped that I listened.

     Many years have passed since we last talked; I graduated, came to the states, met quite a few people and heard many strange stories. I don't know what becomes of him, but I do learn one thing over all these years; sometimes, it's best just to listen.