When I say I lived in China, generally speaking I mean that I lived in a bubble. As one of the spoiled little brat expats (and trust me, even among expats I was a brat) I found the experience of seeing the incredible poverty around me to be a little disenheartening, but not really, kind of like seeing a dying animal through the bars of a zoo cage. There's a lot of shame to be had for my apathy at the beggars and street people that I brushed off casually while walking through the markets or trying to convince my mom to cook imported Spam (did I mention how incredibly spoiled I was?) for dinner.
There is one thing, though, that I remember as being an example of that quiet strength my mother posesses but doesn't normally show. We were driving through the center of a busy intersection when my mother spotted an indigent, grungy-looking man sitting crosslegged directly at the center of the crossroads. My mom looked like she was going to do something but instead we kept driving, and I didn't think much of it.
She changed her mind and had our driver take us to one of the teeny little stalls that embraced the globalization trend of the 90s by selling Ritz crackers and Sprites. Armed with a two-liter and a box of Ritz we went back to the intersection and my mother got out of the car into the unpredictable winds of China traffic and gave the man food.
It is a particular shame to me that I forgot about this simple example of generosity until just the other day, years later.