Rosa Parks once said, “One person can change the world.” When I first heard this quote when I was younger, I always pictured people like the Dalai Lama, Harriet Tubman, Nelson Mandela, Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King, or Albert Einstein. When I became an adult, I realized the “one person changing the world” could be me ... or it could be someone I knew.
Recently, I met one person changing the world right here in our North Texas community: Christina Cheng. She agreed to share her story with us for Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month because she recognizes the need for more minority representation in the areas of community building, service, and volunteering.
Christina’s parents moved to the United States from Taiwan in the early 1970s. Speaking no English and in search of opportunity, Christina’s parents decided to open a restaurant in Richardson. Christina remembers sleeping many nights in the back booth of the restaurant while her parents worked long hours. The restaurant was successful despite the language barriers and differences, and Christina’s parents were able to put their two kids through college, paving the way for Christina’s job now as a scientist/researcher.
One morning while driving to work, Christina and her two sons saw a homeless man on the road. He looked thirsty, and Christina's youngest son asked if they could give the man some water. Christina explained to her son that they didn’t have any water to give him, but they could go and buy some to bring back to the man. After her family purchased water and returned to the intersection, the homeless man was gone. (Parents will relate to where this story goes next.) In an attempt to calm her sad child, Christina promised her boys that they would get even more water over the weekend to hand out to the homeless community. So, they did just that.
That weekend, they loaded up the back of her SUV with bottles of water and drove to the bridge near that same intersection. They handed out all of the water. The boys and Christina enjoyed their day of service so much that they started driving to the bridge regularly. A few times a month, their family would collect snacks, drinks, and other needed items to hand out. During the summer months, when the Texas heat hit high temperatures, Christina and her boys took cold Gatorade and water once or twice a week to the people under the bridge.
Over time, Christina formed relationships with some Asian-American-owned small businesses who wanted to donate. People started dropping off items to her front porch. Neighborhood families wanted to join in. Now, three years later, what started out with one bottle of water has flourished into a steady stream of selfless service.
When I asked Christina for some ways the larger community could help celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, her response was simple:
“Show us being represented.”
She pointed out how important it is to have faces that look like her family's volunteering, serving, teaching, and sharing with those on social media. She encouraged us to recruit and elect qualified AAPI community members to city councils, school boards, HOAs, PTAs, and other organizations.
As a parent herself, she also recommended that we teach our kids to ask questions. For example, if kids want to know what their AAPI classmate is eating for lunch, they should just ask politely. Of course, parents also teach them a proper response that encourages further discussions. Learning from each other is how relationships and communities are built.
We honor and celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and thank Christina Cheng for being “one person” who is changing the world. If you would like to donate to Christina’s work, please search PayPal or Zelle for C.Cheng.Patel@gmail.com