A good friend in Hong Kong was recently sharing a thought process she had that concluded with the realization that, in response to an overly stressful life, we need to go out of our way to avoid stressful situations. Elementary, like all great realizations.
As fond as I am of Hong Kong, I must admit that it can be an incredibly stressful place to live (everything has a shadow). I can actually point to one single situation as the source of nearly all of my frustration: how freaking SLOW people walk in the sidewalk. For starters, the sidewalks are only about three paces across, and as I’m sure you know, there are a few people in Hong Kong. Everywhere is a crowd, a bottleneck on the way to work. And wherever there is a crowd, there are slow people. Through no fault of their own (I’m sure they’re lovely), they slowly (heh heh) became my ULTIMATE arch-nemesis, the bane of my young existence, the stressor which promised to make me old far before years would.
In light of the thought shared by my good friend, I started making it a priority to avoid the crowds, and avoid getting stuck behind slow people. Of course, this was a habit anyway, but it became a conscious focus. Even if it took longer to get to work, I would avoid them and their low-velocity disease.
Upon arriving back in Hong Kong from my trip back to Texas for the holidays, when everything was fresh and new again, I took a different route from my apartment to the office. I simply chose the sidewalks which were not too packed. There was a bit of meandering, but eventually I stumbled into my district’s park, which I never knew existed. It is a forest between the buildings and the roads and the trees, an impressive expanse of green. It is the spot where all the old people do their exercises and stretches in the mornings, which I love walking by because it reminds me where I am. Birds were singing all around. It was awesome. It was one of those moments where you want to say to someone, Everything is beautiful and the world is fantastic. I was also listening to Brandi Carlile, which almost guarantees a great morning.
And such is the beauty of Hong Kong: whenever you get caught up in thinking that what you know is all there is, or subconsciously forget that there are surprises and wonder, something will always be presented to surprise you. And it is everywhere – not five minutes off the beaten track (and there are so very many beaten tracks), there are forests, or a ruin of some old great building covered in vines which has no excuse to still exist in such a brutal real-estate market, or a beautiful park with a pond full of turtles, or a big lake at the bottom of a mountain trail, or mossy stairs leading somewhere up the hills, or worn old arches holding a wise city’s memories, or a waterfall outside the city you can jump from, or boulders just off the beach hidden by flowering trees.
The surprises are unassuming, confident. It is a city to learn a lot about God; his kingdom thrives in the smallest and the biggest ways, from the great mountains surrounding to the tiny, defiant tree grove in shadows, all in the midst of towering buildings and bustling seas and streets. It is interwoven, and perhaps the more the city grows and advances, the greater the wonders become, because they are older, wiser, more hidden, more mysterious.
To a year of surprises.