Leo Rosten once said "The purpose of life is not to be happy, but to matter, to be productive, to be useful, to have it make some difference that you have lived at all." This quote applies to Chris Chan perfectly because he decided to help immigrant families and to make his life more valuable and pursue the purpose of life. Chris came to the United States at the age of twenty-three with his brother in 1984. This was a big turning point for him and it was also when he found his career.
Chris Chan was born in Guangzhou and his whole family moved to Macau when he was seven years old, including five brothers, four sisters and his parents. He used to live with his family in a village in Macau. Chris misses his childhood a lot because he spent his time on entertainment all day. Chris was very creative because he made most of his toys on his own such as paper frogs and soccer cards. People were easily pleased at that time so Chris could play with his toys for the whole day without getting bored. Suddenly, his sister had to leave him to go to the United States as an overseas student when he was nine years old. Chris was crying at the corner of the airport as his sister left, but Chris’ American dream had also began at the same time.
Chris' sister applied for him and one of his brothers to immigrate to the United States when he was twenty-three years old. He found his first job as a construction worker in Chinatown after three days and he also lived with his sister in Queens. His job and location did not require him to communicate with people in English so he had not planned to learn English at that time. Once, he brought his brother to McDonald’s in Midtown and he tried to help his brother order food. He meant to order French fries but he told the waitress that he wanted “potato chips.” Chris repeated himself many times but the waitress told him that they didn't sell “potato chips.” Eventually, Chris left that place with embarrassment and was forced to go back to Chinatown for dinner. After this incident, Chris decided to learn English and help new immigrants like himself and encourage them to learn English. He also realized that it is easier for people to pursue their dreams in the United States compared to his hometown.
After learning English for two years, his English improved a lot. One of his friends suggested that he work at the Chinese Progressive Association (CPA) as an assistant to help translate for Cantonese and Mandarin speakers. According to the Executive Director of CPA, Mae, Chris was still shy to speak in English. He was always trying to avoid speaking in English whenever possible. At the same time, he also went to college. He was in the ESL program and his major was Art because it didn't require him to communicate with people too much in English. It was also a big turning point for Chris to work at CPA. As he kept working at CPA, CPA provided a chance for him to study Parenting, and he earned a Master’s degree in Parenting from Hunter College. This is also where he found the right career for him.
After he graduated from the Parenting program, he could matter. He left CPA and went after his dream. He started a non-profit organization called Family Harmony, to solve family issues. He thinks that the Chinese parents don’t know how to communicate with their children. The parents often order the children to do things and when the children try to talk to the parents, the conversation often turns into a lecture. So, the children feel unsafe to talk to their parents and the relationship gets worse. He suggests that parents should take the first step to change themselves because they are more mature.
The biggest challenge of his job is his inability to change the difficult situations immediately. There was a situation that he mentioned that he wasn’t able to change. It was about a Fujianese family. The child was born in the United States but the parents did not have enough time to accompany their child, so they chose to send their child back to China and let her grandparents to take care of their child. When the child grew up and came back to the United States, the child realized that the grandparents knew her more than her parents did. As a result, their relationship became distant and the barrier formed between the child and the parents. However, Chris always tries his best to solve the problems because it is the job that he wants to do. Although Chris spent many years to find his interest, he believes it was worth it. Chris’ story directly relates to Leo Rosten's quote because happiness will not last forever, therefore he wants to be productive and make some difference in his life. His determination is what gave him the opportunity to find the right career and to be productive.