Vic Young is my FF (Chinese Fraternity) Brother. Our Friendship deepens as we share ideas and insights. His letter below – titled ” Won’t you Be My Neighbor?” indeed inspires and challenges me at the same time. What I learn most distinctly from his letter is that “To Become Good Neighbors or Friends it usually starts with an easy “Hello”, followed by building Honest, Caring, Civil and Empathetic Mutual Respect, and Understanding. It”s more complex for us Chinese Americans in the United States today. “

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? by Vic Young

Bro. Billy,

You have been consistent over your life about living and leading with “friendship” and your current endeavors on your FRIENDSHIPOLOGY INITIATIVE.  I am humbled and daunted by your request to comment on the subject.

It reminds me of the sermon I heard years ago.  My pastor at our church was returning to the Bay Area from a trip.  He settled into his seat on the plane next to a gentleman.  After the seat belt sign was turned off, the gentleman struck up a conversation to break the ice with the pastor.

“What do you do for a living?”

“I am a pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Berkeley.”

Not the response he was expecting, the gentleman nervously said, “Great.  I get it.  Do the right thing, turn the other cheek, do unto others…..”

Trying to keep the conversation going, the pastor asked the gentleman, “and what line of work are you in?”

The gentleman responded, “I am an astrophysicist.”

The pastor said with a smile, “oh, let me see.  Twinkle, twinkle, little star.”

Such is “friendship.”  There is more to it than meets the eye.  There is always context.  It is not always sugar and spice.

“Friendship” is often taken for granted. It is something that is often difficult to articulate or more importantly to demonstrate.

As fraternity brothers, our relationship is founded and perpetuated by friendship and fellowship.  Fraternal bonding is another conversation.

Your FRIENDSHIPOLOGY work addresses a broader audience. Friendship is like spinach; it is good for you, but…

I choose not to delve into this academically (philosophy, history, social and psychological impacts); nor with quotes and slogans. Well, maybe one slogan?

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

That is the highly successful award-winning 2018 documentary film about Fred Rogers and his iconic children’s television show on PBS that guided generations.

Now, we are awaiting the release of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” starring Tom Hanks portraying America’s most beloved neighbor. It is about overcoming skepticism, learning about empathy, kindness, and decency.

Variety Magazine noted:  “behind the smile lay a weird sort of tough-nut faith that made him willing to look at dark things, and a philosophy of life that can only be described as…love. As in: love your children, love thy neighbor, love yourself. Fred Rogers may have come off, on TV, like a walking piece of kitsch, but the real truth is that this ordained Presbyterian minister was the world’s squarest Middle American flower child.” I did not know he was a minister.

The question is what is Mr. Rogers about, on-screen and in real life?  He really wants to be your “neighbor, to be your friend.”

Why is there interest in and anticipation of Mr. Rogers’ story through these two films?  It is not nostalgia. Simply, people need something to lift them up and to find new meaning in this world going through seasons of division, darkness, chaos, anxiety. 

Most of us do not know our neighbors.  We do not always act like neighbors.  We are constantly in transition. We are too busy with our own priorities and our own business to be neighborly and to be “friends.”

We need Mr. Rogers to move into our neighborhood.  He exudes friendship and love – love your children and love your neighbors.

We need to be like Mr. Rogers.  We need to be good Samaritans.

Friendship is the Golden Rule. Friendship is spiritual.

Today, it can be a challenge.  Friendship has also evolved in this modern society. In the past, friendships drastically differed; motivated by protection.   In the past, people chose to make friends for survival and protection from other people who bullied you. In the present society, people choose their friends for who they are of many qualities that make them connect to each other. Friendship has become more diverse ethnically and culturally. As time passes, the society we live in has changed the friend into someone of the ideal friend for themselves for comfort.

Friendship is a distinctive kind of concern for your friend, a concern which might reasonably be understood as a kind of love, Agape.  This is a kind of love that has come through the Christian tradition, by extension, our love for God and our love for humankind in general. It is the latter I think you are focusing on.

This does not mean it is easy.  Belonging to one another despite diversity and differences still plagues society.

 “Friendship” in today’s world needs to extend beyond your typical examples and outreaches in order to address the ills of the world. Friendship may mean that, for a moment, it is not focusing on your needs, but those of others.  This means turning the status quo on its head.

We, the world, need “friendship” more than ever.  We need not go into what is happening in the U.S. today, a deeply divided nation.

There are realities, but we are driven by mostly fear, presumption, intellect, biases, and definitions.

We cannot solve every problem out there, but we can make a small difference.

We have a severe homeless problem in our state.  Who knows when the problem will be solved?  Heretofore, like many people, I focused more on the discomfort of their presence and motives rather than their plight.

It is easy for us to walk past a homeless person, quickly.  It is as if they don’t exist, because we choose not to see them.  Yes, some are just pan-handling and others have serious mental problems.  Instead of rushing past them, is there one of them that would feel better if we just looked at them and acknowledged their existence, let alone part with $1 or a Big Mac?

Charity and kindness, not judgment and analysis.

What do you do when “spies and illegal aliens” move into the neighborhood?

Driven by the current leadership in Washington, Hispanics, Middle Easterners, and now the Chinese have been unnecessarily painted black, so they fade from sight. Racial profiling of Chinese in America is trending again.

Our government acts as if they suspect all Chinese, including Chinese Americans, and are willing to suspend civil and legal rights. Most importantly, they are fostering racism throughout the country in pursuit of security.  This is not just about the FBI, but Americans.  We have not learned from mistakes of the past and what happened to the Japanese and others around the world?  We need to speak up and make all Americans understand what should be done and what should not be done.

For us, the Chinese, we cannot hide from both sides of the issue and simply protest the obvious.  There are bad Chinese in America among us and trying to steal technology and thus endangering national security. 

Friendship means not conforming to patterns of the world. Don’t get to a default mode or safe posture. This is the USA. Where is the idea of freedom, if not friendship?  Friendship and civility do not trump (no pun intended) vigilance and security.

Friendship also means that we may be bolder and more tender.  That’s what enables solutions, reconciliation, forgiveness, family and safe communities.  Friendship is a beautiful neighborhood.


By Billy Lee – January 2020

Rushton Hurley, Founder and Executive Director of Next Vista for Learning ( ),  read the article, ’Seven Tips To International Friendship’ from . He immediately approached me and asked for an introduction to the author, Jeremi Snook, Executive Director of Journey- Friendship Force International  ( ).

Indeed, it gave me great pleasure to arrange this connection, because both of them are devoted to the same cause, and both have established platforms to promote THE SPIRIT OF INTERNATIONAL CROSS-CULTURAL FRIENDSHIP! It made my Winter Holidays 2019 the happiest One, indeed!

Andover Classmate George Rider, who attended Yale as I, sent out a challenge to our Andover-Princeton friends to submit news for the Andover Alumni News Magazine.  Within two days, two classmates responded although neither of them attended Princeton. One wrote joyfully in high spirit, but he informed us that he was writing to us from a Hospice. Yes, Jocko and I were both considered ‘Foreign Students’ at this New England Prep-school – I was from exotic Shanghai and he from the wild-west Wyoming. I decided to reconnect with him. I wrote to him with an attached video about Chinese Opera and told him that during my childhood days in Shanghai, my father had bought two ponies for my brother and me. My pony was especially sweet and proper. It always trotted behind my elder brother’s slightly taller fella. Subsequently I suffered quite a few times the accidents from behind-the-tail. I also asked him to check out the Chinese opera singing. They actually sound very similar to the famous howling winds in Western Wyoming.  Jocko countered with pictures of his cowboy country and said that he really enjoyed our holiday exchanges. Indeed, Jocko and I played soccer together at Andover in 1950-51. Both at the forward line had practiced swift short passes back and forth to each other. Now we are happy to connect by email, from wherever we are. This is what I call Rekindling Happy Childhood ( possibly Childish ) Friendship after age 85.

I was thinking about what meaningful experiences to share with good friends during this Holliday Season. I decided to explore various MOMENTS. Yes, there are the ‘AH-HA’ Moments. ‘MAGIC’ Moments, ‘MOST CONFUSED’ Moments, ‘FRIGHTENING- PANIC’ Moments,  and ‘WAKE-UP-CALL’ Moments, etc. etc.. Sharing intimate and personal MOMENTS, I believed, enhances BONDING.

A most ‘Magic Moment’ I had ever experienced was that morning when I arranged for a group of middle school students from Menlo Park, California to travel to Beijing to do a mural painting together with a selected group of Chinese students at the China National Children Center.  As the Chinese students, teachers, and their family members noticed that the American Guests had arrived at the main gate, 15 designated painter students started to line up in one row and their teachers and parents gathered behind them.  The American students without instructions instinctively marched forward and lined up in a row opposite the Chinese students, and their teachers and parents lined up behind them.  Ms Chen, the Chinese Activities Director, cheerfully welcomed the American guests and suggested to the students who were going to paint together to first close their eyes but stretch out their arms and walk slowly towards each other. That person whose hands they touch was to be his or her Painting Partner for the weekend.  The students had various facial expressions with their eyes closed – some anxious, some curious, some more determined, and few naughty with mischievous thoughts. Amazingly most adults from both sides were in AWE. They looked intensely at the children who were about to touch each other. Some smiled with lips sealed, a few were in tears. They, including myself, felt a special MAGIC MOMENT There is HOPE for PEACE, PURE FRIENDSHIP AND GOODWILL for our future generations.