Picture of Hope

Last week my friend Simon sent me an old photograph. It’s the class picture of Form 1C (grade 7), Wah Yan College, Hong Kong, 1967. Simon and I were there together with thirty-eight other clueless kids, and one very attractive room teacher, Ms. Cissy. Half of the class was under five feet tall. Snow White would have no trouble finding seven hard-mining dwarfs.

Ms. Cissy had the smarts of a child psychologist. One of the subjects she taught was Western History. One time Picture of Hopeshe gave another class of the same grade a test, which had only one question in it. The next day it was our turn. I figured she wasn’t dumb enough to give the same question twice, so I just studied the other areas the night before. You guessed it: It was the exact same darn question in our test!

During the test, for half an hour I tried to say something out of nothing like a skillful lawyer. She would have none of that. The verdict was inevitable; I got a failing grade. When she returned my test a few days later, she said something like: “You didn’t think I would do that, did you?” I deserved it, Ms. Cissy.

In that picture, in the second row from the front,, the first kid on your right is Philip Kwok. Philip was a good student – well-groomed, quiet, diligent, always did his homework. He probably never “prepared” for Ms. Cissy’s tests like I did. Philip had good grades and went on to study at the prestigious Hong Kong University and earned triple majors in fatherhood, husbandhood and taxation, in that order.

Philip is in a hospital, struggling with serious stomach cancer now. After all these years, he’s the same mild-mannered, gracious kid I used to know. In the face of threatened health, he continues to maintain a scholarly and composed character like a true gentleman.

Philip, we know you are a calm and determined fighter. We need you to keep the financial records of the alumni association from being confiscated by the IRD. You are not going to quit on us. You are not going to die on us!

P.S. If you are a friend of Philips and you are going to visit him in the hospital, will you deliver a hard copy of this story to him please? If it brings a small smile to his face, it will be worth the effort. Thank you!

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