When One Man’s American Dream Falls Through, He Finds Community in Tzu Chi Medical

TIMA  |  July 20, 2021
Tzu Chi Medical patient Jiang Yu (left) makes a generous donation of ten cases of water bottles to show his gratitude for their care and support over the years. With Wuwell Liao.

Written by Audrey Cheng
Edited by Dilber Shatursun

When hundreds of thousands of people emigrate to the US each year, they often bring a strong sense of hope and promise. Yet, for many, such dreams remain out of reach as they be overcome by barriers that include language and culture, economic struggle, discrimination, and so much more. This was the case for Jiang Yu, who emigrated from China many years ago. He detailed his life’s struggle:

I think many people from China came to this foreign land when they were extremely poor, but later in life, they couldn’t prosper. I have been working as a cook, in an industry that is very harmful to my health; my work days are long, and I inhale a lot of smoke, oil, and fumes. Some pans are all very heavy and, now, I find it exceedingly difficult lifting them. How can I go on in this job? At this age, I have little stamina and I fall sick easily.

At the same time, Jiang also recognized the importance of being vigilant about one’s own health and taking preventative measures to ensure costly medical care can be avoided:

It doesn’t matter if you get a serious illness, because if you have a minor illness and don’t have money to treat the illness, it’s over!

Luckily, it was this desire to look out for his health, but also seek help within his means, that led Jiang to the Buddhist Tzu Chi Medical Foundation in the first place.

An Evolving Relationship

At the Tzu Chi Health Center, Dr. Alex Lai performs a cupping procedure on Jiang Yu’s back, where he is experiencing severe pain.

More than ten years ago, a friend of Jiang’s had recommended he become a patient of the Tzu Chi Health Center in Alhambra, CA for his primary care needs. Fast forward to 2021, and Jiang’s come back for help with some shoulder pain.

In fact, he was having trouble moving his shoulder and neck and was unable to carry out strenuous tasks, including controlling the steering wheel while driving. To treat this debilitating pain, the medical staff at Tzu Chi Medical fused the best of eastern and western medicine. Dr. Stephen Denq, Chief Executive Officer of Tzu Chi Medical, administered an injection, while Dr. Alex Lai performed acupuncture. And thus, JIang’s pain had disappeared.

To show his gratitude, he brought 10 cases of bottled water to Tzu Chi Medical staff. Jiang humbly admitted, “I have been seeing doctors and receiving care at Tzu Chi for more than ten years. I had wanted to show my thankfulness to everyone there, but because of my tough financial situation, which became worse during the pandemic, I could only afford to bring bottled water to show my gratitude. Thanks to the Tzu Chi medical team for their long-term support and service!”

Of the treatment he’d received just the day before, Jiang said he’d felt real relief after the east-west medicine approach: “I was so touched that my tears almost ran down my cheeks… I am incredibly grateful. Sending water is just a little way to show my appreciation, to express the enormous gratitude I have for all of those at the Health Center in my heart.”

A Meaningful Birthday

Tzu Chi Medical staff and volunteers put together a heartwarming gift for patient Jiang Yu’s birthday.

Tzu Chi Medical staff members Wuwell Liao and Monique Kuo accepted the donated water bottles from Jiang. Hearing of his troubles, Monique pointed out the thoughtfulness of his gesture: “you are in such financial difficulties, yet you are concerned about keeping us hydrated at the Health Center… We are grateful for your kindness.”

She emphasized that Tzu Chi Medical is committed to providing medical care to anyone in need, regardless of their ability to pay. Touched by his sincerity, Monique expressed her appreciation to Jiang:

We ask for nothing nor expect nothing from anyone needing help. In fact, we thank you for the opportunity we had to help you relieve your illness!

Jiang Yu (right) receives a special gift from Dr. Stephen Denq, who helped treat his shoulder pain just the day before.

Coincidentally, the day Jiang brought the water was also his birthday. Upon making this discovery, Monique cheered him on and the staff rounded up gifts to share with him in celebration. They included Jing Si Noodles, Jing Si Tea,  soymilk powder, a box of face masks, and a blessing from Dharma Master Cheng Yen in the form of a red envelope. Even Dr. Denq offered him a small gift. Jiang happily told us it was the most meaningful birthday in his life.

Giving, Despite the Challenges

Jiang Yu drops of his donation of ten cases of water bottles to the Tzu Chi Medical office in Alhambra, CA.

Master Cheng Yen has often expressed that giving love constitutes a form of giving. Whether one has many means or few, love is free. To give is also to make oneself smaller, while expanding the heart and caring for others in the world. This concept reminded Dr. Denq of a book that Master had written when Jiang brought the water bottles.

In the book “Man Has Twenty Difficulties,” Master Cheng Yen outlines the first as “it is difficult to give when one is poor.” Yet, Jiang was living proof that even the smallest and most modest of gestures could contribute to a cycle of love and generosity, a lesson from which all of us can take inspiration.

Support Tzu Chi Health Centers and our medical mission with a gift of love.