“Experiencing Random Kindness in Taipei” by John Liu – Taipei – March 2021

An ordinary but beautiful thing happened this morning and I would like to share it with you. Shirley had a medical appointment to get test reports on her unexpected high blood pressure situation. I had an appointment to check up on an abdomen pain that may or may not be related to the prostate surgery I had last November. Both of us were a little weary as we walked into the day clinic of the largest hospital in Taipei.

It was like a day at the market, people everywhere though everyone did obediently have masks on. As some of you might know, Taiwan’s universal single-payer health insurance is so good and so efficient that most people, especially older folks, consider going to the hospital as a day at the department store. Next-day appointments are easily arranged on-line, most treatments and medicines are free of charge, and medicines are picked up immediately after you are seen by the doctor. I watched as an old man picked up his medicines, 17 different prescriptions, gleefully saying to a family member, “Now we can go home and share all these!” “Well, it’s all free.” Imagine all this rampant medical consumerism! Besides, there are many gourmet restaurants and vendor type food stalls right in the hospital which people visit regularly after their medical appointments. Occasionally you might even see in-patients in their hospital pajamas, having a grand time in the restaurants, and then get back on their wheelchairs returning to their hospital beds. This is the everyday hospital scene here.

I was behind her on an escalator ramp (not stairs), going up to the second floor. This morning it was chilly and I had a knit yarn hat on. As I was taking it off, it caught my eye glasses and they fell over the edge of the escalator ramp onto the floor below. The ramp was moving and I turned back to look. A person behind me said she did see the glasses fall. Shirley had gone on ahead unaware of what had happened. When I got up to the top of the ramp, I quickly came around and back down to the first floor to look for the glasses. There is a row of chairs with people seated waiting for their turn at a registration counter. I began looking all around causing a slight commotion. A few people got up and looked around for me. Well, you guessed it, no glasses on the floor below the escalator ramp!

I went up the ramp four or five times, each time reenacting the location and how the glasses fell off, and where they could possibly have landed. Each time I would try to think of alternative scenarios of what might have happened to the glasses. Could someone have picked them up before I got down and turned them to the service counter? I asked at all the nearby service counters. There was no sign of my glasses. Perplexed, I went to see about Shirley. She had just gotten out of the first appointment and was going to the second one to see test results. I told her what had happened to me and that I had missed my own appointment. (By now, preoccupied by the weird occurrence, my pain had cured itself.) I walk her over to get the test results and told her that I would go check at the main building information desk to see if someone had turned the glasses in to them. Then I would come back and meet her at the counter to pick up her medicine. Well, there were many glasses at the main information desk, but mine were not there. I left my name and contact hoping eventually someone might turn the glasses in.

Back at the medicine counter I waited for Shirley and finally she showed up, dejected over the test results which showed she is high on blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride. Both of us had sad faces and didn’t know what to say to each other. After a bit of consoling each other, we went back to the escalator ramp and checked one more time. By now it’s almost two hours since I lost my glasses. We scrutinized every possible corner again to see if we had missed seeing something. Finally I gave up and began to think of when and where to get a new pair of glasses. Shirley said, “let’s go up the ramp again.” I had given up but followed her up. She was looking all around and a young woman became curious.

This young woman, apparently going to her own appointment, after hearing our predicament, decided to help us look. She was very methodical, checked the details of my story, looked at my hat, and began to go up the ramp and down the stairs to look, even using her cell phone light to check the dark places. She also went to the service counter to see if anyone had turned in the glasses. By now Shirley and I were overtaken by this enthusiastic young person willing to take the time to help us. She was cheerful, matter of fact, none of the “feeling sorry” kind of language.

Meeting this person was like a breath of fresh air and we began to feel brightness and positivity, rather than bad luck and remorse over our situation. She spent a good twenty minutes helping to look, but then she also could not find the glasses. So we thanked her for her help not wanting to delay her appointment any further and she went on her way up the escalator ramp. We felt good meeting her even if the glasses were lost. She had turned our spirits around and made our day.

This is not the end of the story.

As we were about to leave, I saw her hurrying coming back down the stairs. She told us to wait for another moment because she wanted to check one more place. After a few minutes she came back around the other side of the escalators with a pair of glasses and a big smile. We were so surprised and couldn’t wait to find out how she found them. “Well, there is a staircase in the back of the escalators that goes down to the basement. I checked there and found them down below. Now I really have to go. Bye.” This whole episode had by now delayed her at least 30 minutes.

We did not have time to ask her name, to take a picture with her, and to thank her. So here it is, an ordinary day in Taipei, a freak accident of losing my glasses, a chance meeting of a stranger, and a totally random act of kindness that retrieved the glasses. As recipients of this kindness, its uplifting power reverberated for the rest of the day, and continues to be with us. For the young woman, being kind and helpful not only to those that you know, but also to anyone you come in contact with, seems as natural as breathing. With the lightness of her disappearance into the crowd, we could sense that she felt good, even late for her appointment.

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” Time Marches On – peeping into the future ” by James Luce – March 2021

Hello Billy, Here’s the promised poem for your Friendship website..with some extremely helpful edits by Melissa…

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The winds of change are never a gentle breeze.

The tides of time are never still, never at ease.

The dominant destructive force in the Universe is entropy.

The dominant destructive force on Earth is enmity.

Some say the world may end in fire; some say it will freeze.

But those who want fire and those who want ice

Aren’t the ones we want to see rolling the dice.

We prefer those who believe that plenty and peace

May perhaps one day prevail…as then the rolling will cease.

After all, we’re brainy sentient women and men, not mice.

The antonym for enmity is friendship, not love or devotion.

The antidote for enmity is empathy, not some fleeting emotion.

For love can be blind, but empathy requires vision.

Love is an ephemeral feeling that can often foster division,

While empathy is cerebral, lasting, and deep as an ocean.

Enmity is a burning conflagration based on ignorance and primal fear.

Fear of people different and rejection of what should be clear.

Empathy is a natural mental skill that’s easily acquired.

It’s simple to learn because into our brains it’s genetically wired.

All it takes is a bit of practice…beginning with those who are near.

If our world is not to end in ice or in fire.

Or in something else equally extremely dire,

We must cooperate and collaborate on an international scale.

We all must learn to get along, half-hearted measures will never avail.

The choice is clear: peace and prosperity on Earth or a hellish quagmire.

OBT

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” Expressing The Essence of Universal Love …Friendship” by Amalia Pellegrini, Genoa, Italy, March 2021

Dear Billy,

First of all I hope you and your loved ones are doing very well !

I am OK  and  follow  summarising  the concept of my Complicitas …aiming to visualise the essence of Love..Friendship.

Cheers from a wonderful sunny day in Genoa

Amalia

” When  I start  working at my photoart,  I do not  want to know  how the outcome  will be. I want to get surprised..!!! Surprised by an ever new, unusual, harmonious, meaningful vision,  I name by the Latin word, Complicitas !
Because of the complicity threading different subjects, mutually enhancing  their  highlights, thus generating a new  Oneness

If no man is an island,  we all are inter-dipendent… hence the Resonance between me  and  any place in the world I visit, focus.. can awake facets of it nestled in me.
thus inspiring  a portrait by an innovative Togetherness among elements of any kind,nature

A Togetherness aiming, beyond any mere  aesthetic ,
to express the essence of universal Love…Friendship  !

It’s  the Complicitas  mission 

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“FRIENDSHIPOLOGY” by Jeanne Gadol – February 2021

Jeanne and husband Steve

My dear friend Billy Lee asked me to add to his Friendshipology site so here are my musings on the topic.  Friendships are an integral part of our deeply rooted social nature. As I age I cherish ever more the special people whom I consider to be my friends.

Being friendly and enjoying an activity with another person can be satisfying and enjoyable.  To me, however, and for the sake of this writing, this is not the same as a true and deep friendship although those very special friendships often and typically begin in this way.  Additionally, family members can be but aren’t necessarily true friends.

I enjoy reading quotations.  After reading many about friendship, the ones below resonate the most with me. Through them I’ll describe what friendship means to me and the place it holds in my life.

. Friends are people who know you really well & like you anyway.  – Greg Tambly

We get to know one another through open communications and trust.  Friends are those who know our imperfections and accept us completely for who we are.

  • Friends are those rare people who ask how we are and then wait to hear the answer.  – Ed Cunningham

Friends are deeply united with one another; not just by an enjoyment of activities and events, but from our hearts and souls within. With this comes a genuine interest in each other’s lives and a desire to deepen this knowing and understanding.

  • I get by with a little help from my friends.  – The Beatles

Friends help one another through difficult times.  Help can be as simple as a drive to a car repair shop and as deep and profound as being emotionally available when a loved one passes.  This giving and taking between friends is mutual and given freely over time.  It can, of course be unidirectional when one needs it most.

  • Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief.  – Marcus Tullius Cicero

Knowing we are accepted, listened to and valued for who we are provides satisfaction, as does giving this to our friends.  In this way we celebrate and increase one another’s joy and comfort through difficult times.

  • One’s friends are that part of the human race with which one can be human.  – George Santayana

Being human is being in tune with our deepest emotions and needs.  In most situations and with most people opening ourselves to this level of intimacy and vulnerability is not appropriate and can even put an unwanted burden on the other person.  Friends provide the freedom to share at a deep level.  Not everything and not to every friend, but far more than to others. 

  • The best things in life aren’t things… they’re our friends.  – unknown 

This quote doesn’t need any discussion; it is my favorite in its truth and simplicity.

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Jeanne Gadol bio

Jeanne Gadol, a native Californian, exhibited her interest and talent in artistic expression since childhood.  She found her creative niche with the advent of digital art and photography.  A fulltime artist since 2000, she photographs, paints, and combines her photographs and paintings with other digital elements resulting in unique digital artistry.  One of her greatest joys is knowing her art brings thousands of owners and viewers happiness and a sense of peace and wonder.

Her other sources of pleasure are being in nature and of course spending time with her friends and family. She lives in Portola Valley, California with her beloved husband and slightly crazy Siamese cat.

Jeanne’s Artworks :

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“Compassionate Outreach to A Suffering Friend ” by a MIT Grad.- a Buddhist – February 2021

100,000 Burmese Monks prayed for Peace together


Billy, I’m not able right now to provide an essay on compassion from a buddhist perspective, but here’s a poem I wrote in 2016 that went to an incarcerated young person, sent anonymously through the Mind Body Awareness Project: Mindfulness & Life Skills for At-Risk Youth (http://www.mbaproject.org . You may find it suitable for your website.

Dear friend,

The world can feel cruel, 

Making kindness seem like something for a fool.

Made me wonder why I should ever go to school.

When life knocked me down, 

I hurt deep inside and struggled to get off the ground.

Saw nothing worth living for in town and around. 

Like many others, I’ve gone through dark times.

Seemed like other kids got sweets when I got only limes.

The only thing I believed in was angry hip hop rhymes. 

When life was dark, I looked at my past with regret,

I saw others as a threat.

Hearing empty promises for the future only got me more upset. 

Then I learned there are ways to free my mind.

Realized even though we got eyes, we’re actually blind.

There’s unimaginable goodness in life for us to find. 

With a glimmer of hope, I no longer felt confined.

Decided to leave my dark days behind. 

Join a good fight somewhere with people unbelievably kind. 

Set your mind straight, and life will be great. 

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BILLY”S COMMENTS: It’s admirable to have kind thought. It’s real when compassionate action follows.

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“FRIENDSHIPOLOGY- IT’S COMPLICATED” by Norm Allenby – February 2021

Norm and Grandson Leighton

Friendshipology, the study of friendship, is complicated:  The who, the what, the when, the where, the how and the why of friends and friendships.  If “to be or not to be” is the existential Shakespearean question, particularized here, the question becomes to befriend or not to befriend. 

My first thoughts on the subject brought to mind two experiences. The first experience involved Shawn, a three or four year old boy who was having his first playdate with my son Robert.  Before crossing the threshold of the open front door, he announced a governing principle of friendship, “Be nice me.”

The second experience was an anecdote related by Theodore Greene, PhD in a course called The Philosophy of Religion.  Dr. Greene was teaching leadership to a group of Marine Corps officers.  Asked to comment on a Greek philosopher’s views on leadership, the Marine major said, “You can’t love a sonofabitch.”

Then there is the range of one’s prospective friends. A person who is nice to you might get a responsive thank you, a pat on the back, a smile and maybe a hug.  On the other hand, a business person who with a smile on his or her face fails to disclose a material fact to you in negotiations, defrauds you, is not one  to befriend.  That is at least until the fraud is acknowledged and the problems caused by the fraud remedied. You might then befriend. There are to me limits on friendship between people.

My second thoughts on Friendshipology suggest that friendships are not limited to people, but involve the universe of human experience. For instance as a lawyer and a mediator, the truth and nothing but the truth is an idea, the befriending of which is an absolute necessity, creating duties to courts, clients, opposing counsel and their clients. Truth is an idea to befriend. It is the lifeblood of a not only a legal system but, literally, liberty and justice for all.

My grandson put it to me this way:  In response to a question, “What’s that?” he said, “I don’t know; tell  me and then I’ll know.” Truth telling becomes an obligation.  Teach the truth to your grandchildren. Speak truth. Of course you must know the truth to speak it or teach it.  Therein lies the challenge.  How to determine the truth, especially in this era of broadband and social media use.

Truth telling is tempered by an adage, attributed to Mark Twain, that it’s not what we don’t know that gets us into trouble, it’s the things we think we know that “ain’t so” that get us into trouble.  A squared plus B squared equals C squared is a wonderment of truth. The math must be correct. There is but one correct answer to a math problem. The immutable laws of physics, biology and chemistry need the professional befriending of scientists and students.  

In the 1990s San Diego began to recognize the severity of its water problems.  One of the solutions proposed was water reuse.  Experimental facilities, using the water hyacinth as a cleansing agent, were built that produced water capable of reuse for all purposes but drinking. Purple pipe irrigation using non potable water for irrigation evolved. Eventually potable water was produced. That was an idea which to me was worth befriending.  I took note. 

It was also in the 1990s that the truth of water reuse was being pursued by John Todd of Cape Cod in Massachussetts.  His concept of “living machines” was interesting.  He was featured on national television.  Facilities were built in New England, Canada and China. Again I took note, and I began to research the subject as a meritorious idea and to pursue “solar aquatics” or onsite water treatment as a potential new business venture.

It was in the 1990s too that I ran into my classmate Billy Lee at an Andover reunion where I discussed “living machines” with him and with other classmates.  My law practice took me to the San Francisco Bay Area at times thereafter, and I continued to enjoy opportunities to meet and talk with Billy. When he was invited to Ningbo in 1999 to be presented with an honorary degree, he invited me to travel there with him and perhaps give a lecture on wastewater. His acceptance speech was on sustainability. Traveling with Billy, sharing time, space and talk expanded our friendship.  

I had fun giving a lecture to a group of students in Ningbo. I think they got the notion of water reuse through the use of plants as the primary cleansing agent.  I recall that one of their professors was nodding in agreement as I spoke. 

As suggested at the outset, friendship is a complicated subject.  We must befriend ourselves with respect and care. Personal friendships with one’s spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, playmate, teammate or classmate are all enhanced by our senses and sensibilities.  Business friendships are essential as we co-exist in time and in space on our planet.  

We need to be friends of the earth.  That friendship is existential.

Biography

Billy and I were classmates at both Andover (1951) and Yale (1955).  Following graduation from Yale, I spent two years as a naval officer serving on LSTs in the Pacific.  With my discharge from active duty in 1957, I started law school at Boston University and finished at the University of Denver.  After passing the Colorado bar exam, the California bar exam followed.  Then came the practice of law in San Diego as a civil trial lawyer from 1962 to 1999 and as a mediator for several years.

Having retired from the active practice of law, I formed a California corporation called Onsite Water Treatment, Inc. of which I was President. Today I remain concerned about the local discharge of billions of gallons of wastewater into the Pacific Ocean off San Diego by Californians, the solution to the drying up of the Salton Sea in Southern California, and the contamination of our coastal waters by untreated sewage from the Tijuana River.     

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“FRIENDSHIPOLOGY – MEXICO” by Robin Allenby – Feb. 2021

Robin and Norm Allenby

As a teenager I was fortunate to pursue the life-changing adventure of international travel.  On a student exchange program, I made dear friends with my host family in Mexico City despite our communication challenges. 

It was the memorable summer of 1968, when that metropolis was preparing to host the Olympics.    Wow, was I excited to make the trip from Eugene, Oregon!  

Having had one year of Spanish as a junior, my knowledge of it was rudimentary but I knew that I had an ear for language (after two fundamental years of Latin).  Also, I was a quick learner.  So away I went with my mother’s encouragement and despite my father’s apprehension.

The journey was long.  With limited funds and to enable several students to participate, our chaperoned group traveled by bus and by train.  On arrival, we were introduced to our respective host family representatives.  We were informed as to which local high schools we were to attend.  Afterwards I did not see our chaperone or anyone else from our group that summer until we reconvened for the return trip.  These arrangements made for an immersive experience which has inspired me to this day. 

As it happened, no one in my host family spoke English except for their high school age daughter who had studied it for one year.  We laughed at the realization that the easiest way to communicate was for her to speak to me in Spanish and me to respond in English.  Our vocabularies, grammar and pronunciation skills developed rapidly as we got to know one another.  So did our understanding of idiomatic expressions and use of the vernacular.  When she wasn’t around, the other family members and I managed with good humor, kindness, patience and respect.

They were generous hosts who introduced me to their bustling city and showed me their fascinating country.  They taught me about its history, art, music, architecture and archeology, societal and political issues. They kept me safe in turbulent and unforgettable times, including an earthquake-related power outage, student strikes, overturned buses set afire by protesters, and armed troops on campuses.    

I returned two more summers to visit my Mexican amigos.  The summer between high school and college we toured more of their country together, and during college I attended a language school in nearby Cuernavaca.  They visited me and my family a couple times as well.

These experiences were the enduring product of cross-cultural friendship. I remember them fondly more than fifty years later.  Viva Mexico!

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Robin Herman Allenby was licensed as a California lawyer in 1979.  She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Oregon (double major, Romance Languages and Sociology) and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of San Diego School of Law.  After practicing law in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she hosted several international students, she moved back to San Diego.  Robin still loves mariachi music.  She is happily married to fellow lawyer, Norm Allenby, who was a classmate of Billy Ming Sing Lee’s at Andover and Yale.    

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“AN UPLIFTING STORY”- passed on to me by Mrs. Sarah Randt – February 2021

Here is an amazing story from a flight attendant on #Delta_Flight_15, written following 9-11:

On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, we were about 5 hours out of Frankfurt, flying over the North Atlantic .

All of a sudden the curtains parted and I was told to go to the cockpit, immediately, to see the captain. The captain handed me a printed message. It was from Delta’s main office in Atlanta and simply read, “All airways over the Continental United States are closed to commercial air traffic. Land ASAP at the nearest airport. Advise your destination.”

No one said a word about what this could mean. We knew it was a serious situation and we needed to find terra firma quickly. The captain determined that the nearest airport was 400 miles behind us in Gander, Newfoundland.

There were already about 20 other airplanes on the ground from all over the world that had taken this detour on their way to the US. In the next hour or so more planes landed and Gander ended up with 53 airplanes from all over the world, 27 of which were US commercial jets.

Meanwhile, bits of news started to come in over the aircraft radio and for the first time we learned that airplanes were flown into the World Trade Center in New York and into the Pentagon in DC.

Sometime in the evening the news filtered to us that the World Trade Center buildings had collapsed and that a fourth hijacking had resulted in a crash. By now the passengers were emotionally and physically exhausted, not to mention frightened, but everyone stayed amazingly calm.

About 10:30 on the morning of the 12th a convoy of school buses showed up. We got off the plane and were taken to the terminal where we went through Immigration and Customs and then had to register with the Red Cross.

After that we (the crew) were separated from the passengers and were taken in vans to a small hotel. We had no idea where our passengers were going. We learned from the Red Cross that the town of Gander has a population of 10,400 people and they had about 10,500 passengers to take care of from all the airplanes that were forced into Gander!

People of Gander were extremely friendly. They started calling us the “plane people.” We enjoyed their hospitality, explored the town of Gander and ended up having a pretty good time.

Two days later, we got that call and were taken back to the Gander airport. Back on the plane, we were reunited with the passengers and found out what they had been doing for the past two days.

What we found out was incredible.

Gander and all the surrounding communities (within about a 75 Kilometer radius) had closed all high schools, meeting halls, lodges, and any other large gathering places. They converted all these facilities to mass lodging areas for all the stranded travelers.

Some had cots set up, some had mats with sleeping bags and pillows set up.

ALL the high school students were required to volunteer their time to take care of the “guests.”

Our 218 passengers ended up in a town called Lewisporte, about 45 kilometers from Gander where they were put up in a high school. If any women wanted to be in a women-only facility, that was arranged.

Families were kept together. All the elderly passengers were taken to private homes.

Remember that young pregnant lady? She was put up in a private home right across the street from a 24-hour Urgent Care facility.There was a dentist on call and both male and female nurses remained with the crowd for the duration.

Phone calls and e-mails to the U.S. and around the world were available to everyone once a day. During the day, passengers were offered “Excursion” trips.
Some people went on boat cruises of the lakes and harbors. Some went for hikes in the local forests.

Local bakeries stayed open to make fresh bread for the guests.

Food was prepared by all the residents and brought to the schools. People were driven to restaurants of their choice and offered wonderful meals. Everyone was given tokens for local laundry mats to wash their clothes, since luggage was still on the aircraft.

In other words, every single need was met for those stranded travelers.

It was absolutely incredible.

When passengers came on board, it was like they had been on a cruise. Everyone knew each other by name. They were swapping stories of their stay, impressing each other with who had the better time. Our flight back to Atlanta looked like a chartered party flight.


Passengers had totally bonded and were calling each other by their first names, exchanging phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses.

And then a very unusual thing happened.

One of our passengers approached me and asked if he could make an announcement over the PA system. We never, ever allow that. But this time was different. I said “of course” and handed him the mike. He picked up the PA and reminded everyone about what they had just gone through in the last few days.
He reminded them of the hospitality they had received at the hands of total strangers.

He continued by saying that he would like to do something in return for the good folks of Lewisporte.

“He said he was going to set up a Trust Fund under the name of DELTA 15 (our flight number). The purpose of the trust fund is to provide college scholarships for the high school students of Lewisporte.

He asked for donations of any amount from his fellow travelers. When the paper with donations got back to us with the amounts, names, phone numbers and addresses, the total was for more than $14,000!

“The gentleman, a MD from Virginia , promised to match the donations and to start the administrative work on the scholarship. He also said that he would forward this proposal to Delta Corporate and ask them to donate as well.

As I write this account, the trust fund is at more than $1.5 million and has assisted 134 students in college education.

“I just wanted to share this story because we need good stories right now. It gives me a little bit of hope to know that some people in a faraway place were kind to some strangers who literally dropped in on them.

It reminds me how much good there is in the world.”

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BILLY’s COMMENTS: I always thought I understood PERSON TO PERSON

FRIENDSHIP. This is one unique FRIENDSHIP PEOPLE TO PEIPLE.

Sarah Randt is none other then the Da Shi Tai Tai ( wife of Clarke T. Randt Jr. U.S. Ambassador to China from 2001- 2009 ). She was honorary co-chair of The 1990 Institute’s “Xin Xin Jiao” or “Heart to Heart Bridging” – a US-China Children’s Friendship project.

She said to Billy:   “Evidently the play “Come From Away” is a musical about this story or one very similar.” 

Mme. Sarah Randt at the inauguration of the International Children’s Mural Painting Park in Beijing  2009.

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‘The Role of Friendship in Participatory Design’ – by John K.C. Liu -Taipei – 2021

Prof. John KC Liu ( 4th from right ) with NTU Design Team

Making friends in my line of work as a community designer is so obvious and natural that sometimes it escapes notice, until a wise old man reminds me to pay attention. Billy asked me to write a piece about friendship and community design and it dawns on me that in most instances, friendship in the community is an integral part of engaging the community in identifying problems, finding alternatives and deciding on solutions, what I call participatory design.

One example is the design of a neighborhood park in a very densely populated district in Taipei. Along with my students from the National Taiwan University, we came upon an abandoned site turned into a neighborhood garbage dump. We discovered that this site is a designated location for a neighborhood park but due to disagreements over its design, it had been vacant for many years without a solution. Two factions of the community were constantly at odds over large and small issues. The students saw an opportunity and took on the challenge of engaging the opposing groups of residents. Initially they established an after-school store-front workshop across the street from the site where school children could come to do their homework tutored by the NTU students. Of course both parents and school children were enthusiastic with this opportunity and after our NTU students had become familiar with all the neighborhood school children, a site cleaning party was organized. The event was planned and carried out by the collaboration of the NTU students and the local school children. The event was a success ending with a neighborhood party on the cleaned site. Because school children from both factions of the neighborhood were actively engaged, their respective family members all came out for the party. All agreed that cleaning out this eyesore was a positive step taken by the community. As a result, previous tensions between opposing factions began to ease.

Following this initial action, NTU students, along with interested local school children, began to plan for the future park. Aware of the differences that existed in the neighborhood, the group had to devise activities that would bring people together, not necessarily to agree, but to engage. One of the first activities was to ask people in the community to identify places which they either like or dislike by the use of instant cameras to record. By soliciting over a hundred responses from old people, young people, housewives and shopkeepers, a photo exhibit of the responses were held on site for all to see. Photos of likes and dislikes were grouped separately and the effect of the display was amazing in that people of opposing factions suddenly realized their values about the qualities of the neighborhood environment are much more similar and close to each other rather than different. People from opposing factions began to talk to each other for the first time, discussing shared opinions and some differing viewpoints. Suddenly, the community seemed to come alive with talk and chatter. They began to find out about each other, about family, about who knows whom, about kids’ schooling, about buying groceries. Small talk about daily life led to friendship across factions and cliques. There was the beginning of a new energy in the community that was previously absent. Along the way the NTU students became friends with the families in the surrounding neighborhood, often being invited home for meals and to serve as big brothers and sisters to the school kids.

At this point NTU students felt that the community was ready to engage in conversations about the future of the park site. Again, activities with school children led the way, including collaborative drawings of an ideal park where two or three kids worked out shared ideas and discarded conflicting proposals. This helped to build trust and mutual reliance which strengthened the friendships in formation. Other activities such as interviews with elderly people were undertaken to gather ideas about the needs and wants of the older generation. For example, one very specific and widely shared idea was that older people like to watch what younger people and kids are doing, rather than being separated and secluded. This became one of the important guidelines to the design of the park.

Neighborhood people were then organized into three groups to participate in the actual design of the park. Old people, women and young people formed design teams assisted by the NTU students. Each team proposed a design scheme for the park and a neighborhood preference poll was taken to decide which scheme would be selected.

Unexpectedly some elderly folks objected to counting young people’s votes because they thought that young people are only kids and should not be allowed to participate in serious matters of decision making. Their reasoning was that it is O.K. for young people to make a design proposal, but that the decision should be left to the adults. This sudden turn of events caused confusion among all participants and accusations of procedural shortcomings and age discriminations, etc. began to split the community apart.

At this point the NTU students realized that the impasse between generations would need some time to resolve. A moratorium of two weeks was called on the voting process to relax the tensions. Some way of bringing the community back together needed to be found. By considering the key accomplishment made so far, it was clear that newly formed friendships across factions was a key that could recapture the energy that was waning. For the next two weeks, the NTU students worked with adults and elderly folks to communicate the viewpoint that young people in the neighborhood had contributed responsibly to the process up to this moment and that their proposed design for the park ought to receive equal consideration, and further that the young people’s choices for the preferred design should be respected as any other resident of the neighborhood. Friendship played a critical role as people spent time discussing with family members, with new friends and with elderly people.  After two weeks, the neighborhood came together and took a preference poll again, this time with the full inclusion of the young people. A selection of the preferred design was made, to everyone’s satisfaction. With a delay of few weeks, the community gained a new understanding of making group decisions including the pros and cons of direct voting, as well as respect among generations. In addition, some of the details of what makes friendship work were also tested and refined. One such detail is trust, how one person trusts the judgments and values of others.

The NTU students provided the technical support to complete the project and the park was finally realized a year later. In the meantime, the residents of the neighborhood organized a park supervision committee on their own initiative, including maintenance, landscape management, safety patrol, cleaning, and conflict resolution. Bonding with neighbors and making lasting friends through the participatory process of designing the park, a sense of collective achievement was critical in sustaining the supervision committee’s work. At the opening of the park, there was a lot of media exposure of this project and many reporters were curious about what is so special about a participatory design process. The physical aspects of the park seemed ordinary enough, with playground, ball court, seating area, flowers and trees. The design of the park, on first sight, even had some awkward spots that a professional designer would not have done. So the reporters pressed me to explain.

What I said in response was: If you look carefully at what you can see, for example, the long curvilinear bench that ring the edge of the open plaza and ask how it was designed, I would say that the elderly people wanted to see small kids playing in the plaza in a safe and shaded area. The young people’s design proposal incorporated this need and designed a continuous bench which later became one of the most used features of the park. Another example is the ball court where earlier, young people wanted a full size basketball court. When adults and elderly people pointed out that a full size court takes up too much space and some of the elderly people’s needs would have to be disregarded, then the young people, on their own, decided to make only a half court instead of a full court. These kinds of dialog, give and take, among groups and between generations, could only happen is there is trust and mutual respect, and if there is self-awareness and empathy. Then I went on to remind the reporters to ask residents themselves about what is so special about this park. I said you will find what is special may be the non-physical aspects of the park. It is the social process that reversed a community in conflict and turned it into a community in cooperation. The key to this reversal is the building of friendships at the beginning of the process. It is these friendships that let to the sustainability of this park as a loved neighborhood place.

True enough, after more than twenty years since its opening, on a recent visit I found the trees have grown tall as well as the young people who have grown up to become responsible and valuable members of this community. They take pride in creating this community space through the agency of friendship. The park, in turn, provides the context for sustaining robust second generation friendships.

Find the best use for this site.
Participatory decision for a Children’s Park
Result of Community Participatory Deseign
A Friendly Gathering Place for both Old and Young

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John K. C. Liu – 劉可強Bio – May 2019

John K.C. Liu is currently the chairman of the Building and Planning Research Foundation (BPRF) at the National Taiwan University, of which he was the founding executive director in 1990. Over the past thirty years the BPRF has provided professional planning and design services to improve the everyday living environment of more than 500 communities. Significant projects include the Yilan Performing Arts Center, Taipei Treasure Hill Historic Village Preservation and Reuse, South-West Coastal Area Ecological Planning, Heritage Planning for the Indigenous Kochapogan settlement , and the Houpi Community Development Planning in Yilan. Specific methodologies of direct community participation have been refined through practice.

John K.C. Liu attended the Rhode Island School of Design from 1963-1965, and in 1968 received a B.Arch.from the Cooper Union in New York. In 1969 he received a M.Arch. from the University of Washington, Seattle and in 1980 a Ph.D. in Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. Liu’s current research and professional interests are in sustainable development and environment planning, ecological design, public facilities planning and design including theaters, museums, schools, housing, and historical heritage planning. His special expertise is in participatory community planning and design.

Dr. Liu has been a Professor in the Graduate Institute of Building and Planning at the National Taiwan University. He has also taught at the University of Washington, Seattle, the Penn State University, Tunghai and Chung Yuan universities in Taiwan, U.C. Berkeley, California, and Tsinghua University, Beijing. During 2016-2017 he was the OSM Distinguished Visiting Professor at National University of Singapore Department of Architecture.

Dr. Liu’s contributions to sustainable community development and planning have been recognized by numerous honors and awards. They include: 16th Taipei Culture Award, 2012; First Prize,Taiwan Architects Association Annual Awards, for the Yilan County Performing Arts Center, 2000; California State Asian American Association of Engineers Professional Achievement Award, 1989; State of California Affordable Housing Award, 1986; U.S. National Science Foundation Public Service Science Residency award, 1981; Progressive Architecture Awards Citation in Applied Research, 1978.

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BILLY’s COMMENTS : Billy met John in 1967 as volunteers at New York Chinatown. Several young Chinese Architects and Planners formed a Group named New York Chinatown Urban Design Team. We became friends and have kept up ever since. John and wife Shirley have children in the Bay Area. They visit their children regularly and each time they come they would visit Billy and Lucille at Portola Valley – near Stanford University.

Lucille, Shirley, John, and Billy met at Portola Valley, Ca. 2020

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“Introducing Happiness in a Redwood Forest” by Joe R. McBride – February 2021

            In May 2015 I was asked to take a group of Spanish students to visit the redwood forest in Anderson Grove near Healdsburg, California.  The students were sophomores from the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain.  Most of them had not previously visited the United States and none had been in a redwood forest.  They were typical of the 18- and 19-year-old students  whom I had taught at Berkeley.

            When we arrived at the parking lots at Anderson Grove they piled out of the vans and clustered in small groups intently engaging in conversation.  Some who were not engaged in conversation were texting on their cell phones or taking picture.  I lined the students up in single file and walked them passed the entrance kiosk and into the forest.  We walked about 100 yards accompanied by a cacophony of their conversation.  Many of the students were also texting and taking pictures.  Stopping the group, I told them I wanted them to experience the forest on a basic level and that I thought their conversation, texting, and photography would interfere with that level of experience.  Then I asked them to turn their cell phones off and give them to me.  Some students seemed very reluctant to give up their cell phones.  They looked pained by my request.  Having obtained their cell phones, I asked them to walk alone through the forest to an opening about ¼ mile further along the trail.  I asked them to stay 50 feet apart and not engage in any conversation with other students. This was to insure that they would have a more or less individual experience of walking through the redwoods. 

            The students walked individually through the beautiful grove of ancient trees.  When we all assembled in the small clearing at the end of the walk, I gave each student a piece of paper and asked them to write a list of words to describe how they felt while walking through the redwoods.  After 5 minutes each student read the words he or she had written down.  These included the following words, some of which  appeared on several of the student’s lists: “peaceful”, “calm”, “reverent”, “sublime”, “relaxed”, “comfortable”, “happy”.       I too had experienced many of these feeling walking alone through redwood forests.  The silence and majesty of the trees always melted away the anxiety and trivia that cluttered my mind.  Any sense of my problems seemed insignificant in the presence of the age-old, giant trees.  Being among them made me feel at peace with myself, the world and happy.

            I returned the student’s cell phones and invited them to walk back to our vans in the parking lot.  The cacophony of conversations, texting, and photographing returned as we walked back.  But I was glad they had experienced a special level of happiness in the redwood forest.

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JOE R. MCBRIDE – Prof. Emeritus , Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning , U.C. Berkeley

SPECIALIZATIONS Vegetation and ecological analysis; urban forestry; historic landscape restoration.

BIOGRAPHY: Professor McBride’s current research involves projects on (1) the effects of urban forests in the reduction of air pollution in China, (2) the composition, structure, and function of urban forests in different biomes, (3) the role of fire in riparian woodlands of the Sierra Nevada, and (4) wind patterns, micro-climates, and windthrown hazard in urban areas.

AWARDS + RECOGNITION: Merit Award for Stanford University Vegetation Management Plan. ASLA. 1983 Resources Preservation Award for San Francisco Presidio Study. National Resources Council. 1987Distinguished Teaching Award. University of California. 1991Carl Alwin Schenck Award for Distinguished Teaching. Society of American Foresters. 1992Honor Award for Sutro Baths Historic Restoration Plan. ASLA. 1993Donald P. Gasser Award for Distinguished Contributions to Forestry Education. University of California. 1997 and 2007Fellow Society of American Foresters. 1997Seal of the College of Natural Resources. University of Tehran. 1999Research Award International Society of Arboriculture – 2003 Elected Member of the Chinese Academy of Forestry – 2004Keynote Speaker – Annual Meeting of the International Society for Arboriculture. Honolulu, Hawaii. July 2007Outstanding Field Course Teaching Award, College of Natural Resources, University of California, 2008Keynote Speaker – Ohio Conference on Urban and Community Forestry. Ohio State University. Columbus, Ohio. October 2009The Outstanding Educator Award. Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture, 2009The California Preservation Foundation Award for “Restoration of the Gardens on Alcatraz Island” – 2009Keynote Speaker – International Conference on Urban Forestry in Challenging Environment. Beijing Forestry University. Beijing, P.R.C., September, 2010Best in Practice Award, Northern California APA – San Francisco Better Streets Plan, 2010Charter Award, Congress for New Urbanism – San Francisco Better Streets Plan, 2011AWARDS + RECOGNITION

JOE’S PHILOSOPHY & MANY PUBLICATIONS CAN BE GOOGLED

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BILLY’s COMMENTS: In July 1997, Prof McBride and Dean Harrison Fraker led a team of five members from UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design on a five day visit to Ningbo, China – Billy’s ancestral home. They consulted with the Ningbo City Government on how to develop a model urban design plan for simultaneous achievement in both economic development and environmental protection strategies . Prof Joe McBride and Dean Fraker led the Berkeley Team. A year later The 1990 Institute, UC Berkeley, and Ningbo City jointly submitted a proposal to ADB ( Asia Development Bank ) via China’s Central Planning Office. Although the master proposal, which focused on priorities in development sequences, was rejected due to ADB’s switch in policy in funding only actual construction projects instead of planning studies. Prof. McBride obtained a separate grant to do a Urban Forest Study for Ningbo. Poeple generally all respect Joe and appreciate his firm and thoughtful caringness. He is forever a DEAR FRIEND if not your BEST FRIEND.

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