Kindness of strangers in Chinese subway warms millions of hearts
Published: Nov 15, 2022 06:05 PM
From left to right: Sun Zhenghong, Sun's wife and Jia Yongting

From left to right: Sun Zhenghong, Sun's wife and Jia Yongting

Recently, Jia Yongting, a young woman living in Changsha, Central China's Hunan Province, once again received a box full of guava from East China's Shandong Province - for the fifth year in a row.

Since 2018, Jia, 29, has been receiving various gifts from Shandong following the changes of the seasons. In June, the boxes contain cherries, while in October and November, she is surprised by sweet guava and peanuts, all arriving at her home just the right time of the year.

These gifts all come from one person, 80-year-old Sun Zhenghong, a farmer in Laizhou, Shandong Province who formed a close tie to Jia at a subway station in Beijing in 2018. 

Jia told the Global Times that she lent Sun a helping hand at that time and then forgot her tiny kindness, but then, unexpectedly, one day she received a box of fruit from the elderly gentleman as thanks. Since then, this display of gratitude has been going on for five years.

This story of repaid kindness has warmed the hearts of millions of Chinese netizens. 

"Courtesy creates goodwill. When you light a lamp for others, it will illuminate you at the same time," a netizen posted in a comment under the report about Jia's story on Sina Weibo, representing the voices of thousands of netizens.

Ordinary but great

The connection between the two people more than half of a century apart started from September 19, 2018.

Jia recalled that when she saw Sun at a Beijing subway station, he was holding an old "dumb phone" and asking for directions. Sun's state of helplessness caught her attention and so she went over to give him a hand.

Jia gave Sun directions and asked if he had a place to stay. Sun said he didn't since he was in the city on his own to handle some family affairs. 

"He was so old and had no shelter in the large city. I felt sorry for him, so I gave him 100 yuan ($13.81) in cash and wrote down my phone number on the note in case he needed to call me if he needed help in Beijing," Jia said.

As she often volunteers for charity activities, Jia did not give the kind gesture a second thought and quickly forgot about it.

She never expected that Sun would call her around two weeks later from his home to ask her for her address so he could send her some local produce as thanks for her help. 

Although Jia refused to accept the gift at first, Sun kept calling her dozens of times and his insistence touched Jia's heart.

The gift from Sun to Jia Photo: Courtesy of Jia

The gift from Sun to Jia Photo: Courtesy of Jia

Since then, Jia has received specialties such as guavas, pears and peanuts from Sun every year, and each time Sun wrote a letter and sent to her with the specialties. In his letters, Sun always mentions the kindness he received from Jia and gave his best wishes.

In September 2021, Sun expressed his wish to meet Jia again in a letter, so Jia came to Laizhou during the National Day holidays and finally met Sun and his family after three years.

Jia said that she was warmly received by the family and since then they have grown closer and closer, becoming not only acquaintances living far away from each other but family.

"We have joined in some important family events such as his grandchildren's wedding ceremony. He also gave me presents and sent cherries as well as peanuts when he heard that I got married," Jia said.

On the wall of Sun's home, a photo of Jia and her husband hangs beside Sun's family portrait.

Speaking about his exchanges with Jia over the years, Sun was a little shy, saying it wasn't a big deal. He noted that the specialties he has sent to Jia are sweet, which reflects his mood when it comes to her. 

Chinese warmth

The story between Sun and Jia has not ended. The story of two strangers becoming family through mutual kindness has touched many netizens who see it as a reflection of the unique warmth of the Chinese people.

"The story encourages me to show kindness without hesitation. Maybe I might be able to gain a family even if they are far away from me," one Sina Weibo user commented.

When posting pictures of the box of guava from Sun or telling their story online, Jia never imagined that it would attract so much attention or compliments.

She told the Global Times that she is thankful for the support and praise she has received from netizens and that she thinks that it was the right decision to share their story since it has encouraged people to show more kindness and generosity.

For their positive influence on society, Jia and Sun were awarded a 5,000 yuan prize by a special fund. Though he initially turned her down, Jia said that she insisted on giving the prize money to Sun since it was his gratitude that inspired people.