Peter Owen Lee was only eight years old when he immigrated all the way from China to Canada. He began in Nanaimo at Departure Bay Elementary school with a grand total of five words in his English vocabulary – a daunting prospect. On the first day of school, he didn’t understand a word of what the teacher was saying. Can you imagine being essentially isolated by language like that? Peter actually describes the move to Canada as “immigrating to Mars”. I think that this statement does a beautiful job of conveying the “AAAAH” of the situation.
Now 11 years old, Peter looks back on his good fortune. Because something else happened on that first day at school which made it a little less “AAAH” and that was Alex. Though he didn’t know any Chinese, Alex held Peter’s hand and led him to where he needed to be. His willingness to reach out to Peter not only made it easier for him to find his way to classes, but also sparked a strong friendship, one that Peter continues to be grateful for today.
I think we can all acknowledge the fact that what Alex did was awesome and that friendship is awesome and kindness is awesome. It’s not really very hard to understand these things, or to understand this story, but understanding it isn’t enough.
Though Peter had Alex, as well as a kind teacher who bought him a Chinese-English dictionary, not everyone in his situation is surrounded by that kind of compassion. You don’t need to get a “What Would Alex Do” t-shirt or anything, but I think we could all do to take a leaf out of Alex’s book.
(excerpted from “Teens talk about moving to Canada”)