Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Man Behind the Counter

Garrett was given the assignment to interview someone "unique" on campus.
When you go to a religious university in a small town, the diversity just isn't really there.
Finding someone unique could be a problem.

He sent me his ROUGH draft.
I thought I'd share.

Apparently he knew me from somewhere. Standing across the counter with a soft, friendly voice the Asian man asked me what I wanted on my salad. After handing me my order, he mentioned that he remembered me from the Ping Pong tournament. I’m pretty good with faces, but he had me this time. Since he was at the ping pong tournament, I figured he liked to play and asked him if he would like to play sometime. I got his number and put it in my phone, along with his name: Denis.
As we played ping pong at my apartment, the conversation flowed naturally. He seemed like the average BYU-Idaho student. However, the more we talked, the more I found that he was not at all “typical” and his life did not mirror the average student’s life at all.
Denis Tang was born and raised in Hong Kong, China and his childhood was pretty typical for China. But his entire life’s course changed when the missionaries tracted him out. Rather than following the family norm and remaining Buddhist, albeit non-practicing, he ended up breaking away, and converting to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Denis delayed telling his family about his devotion to his new church. of  He hid his new religion, but they got the idea when he chose to serve a mission a little over a year after his baptism.

His family was not happy about his decision and did not offer any kind of emotional or financial support. He mde his own arrangements and prepared for his mission alone. Upon returning with honor from his mission in Salt Lake City, he only stayed home for a year until he decided to continue his education. Denis had previously received his associates’ degree in Hong Kong coincidently offered by The University of Utah. Already having an associate’s degree and being a member of the Church, helped him get into Brigham Young University- Idaho.

Leaving behind his family and much of his traditional Chinese culture, Denis packed his bags and headed BYU-I. Today, Denis studies communications with a purpose; he intends to build his international connections.
Besides taking 14 credits, Denis manages to fit 18 hours of work into his schedule as well, and excels in both. Often, Denis’s homework carries over to the weekends. However, this doesn’t discourage him or hinder his dedication to school, his job, or church service. Denis manages to get it all done.

Serving others has always been a priority to Denis. Before his conversion to the Church, he wanted to become a Priest because it involved helping others. While Denis is unsure of his future profession, he wants a career helping others. A benefit Denis believes he brings to the table, when it comes to helping others, is the perspective he has. He believes that people can learn from his life and decision to value dedication. His choices to convert to the Church, serve a mission, and further his education can illustrate to his peers the value of independently being proactive, even without a family backing. Denis proves to be an example of allowing himself to follow his heart and make difficult choices. This trait is special because Denis is able to help his peers appreciate the fact that they have the Church and are at BYUI obtaining an education. People like Denis Tang who have sacrificed so much to join the Church, get to America and work for an education, help others appreciate these things so much more.

The educational system in America inspired Denis to study in here rather than in China. He felt that education in Hong Kong was more competitive and less about giving back to society. The fact that the choice to pick our educational path is a freedom Denis believes America offers that schools in China do not provide. Denis recognizes this advantage and encourages those around him to be grateful to have such choices. Denis finds himself at an advantage among his peers because he believes that American students tend to have a lower appreciation for their teachers. Since he grew up being held to a higher standard of respect for education and teachers, Denis has an edge among his peers which shows in an increase of dedication towards his schooling and academic achievement.

Perhaps the uniqueness of Denis Tang is not the fact that he is from Hong Kong, but all that lies behind his story: his drive, his courage, his sacrifice. When one meets Denis, they find that he is a down-to-earth guy, but when one finds out his whole story, they find he his inspiring. Denis completely re-wrote his future when he discovered the Church as young adult. Denis Tang’s story helps us appreciate things we take for granted. A student with the feeling of entitlement can be reminded that there are people out there who gave up family and a culture to have the Church and be at BYUI receiving an education. His life inspires people to find their path in life, and to follow it. When someone acts as if they are entitled to an education, I think of Denis and what he left behind. Personally, Denis makes me thankful for the fact that I had the support to get where I am today and at the same time, I respect people like him who independently have the will power to make the right decisions in life without much aid of others. I respect the fact that he has independently chosen to do the right thing even when it was hard.


Mama Badger said...

Your sons are simply amazing.

Christina said...

That is wonderful. What a touching look into another person's journey.

Danelle said...

Wow! What a great (and well-written) story.