In Beijing, children often develop close relationships with their ayis and drivers. Some kids have known their ayis since they were in diapers while others consider their daily ride to and from school with their family’s shifu a fact of life. But what are kids’ perspectives on those who help them every day? For our ayi-themed issue, we turned to Daystar Academy students to find out about some of the special ayis and shifus in their lives. We asked students to answer two big questions – what is gratitude and why is it important? As these youngsters remind us, any time is a good time to give thanks.
Colbert Chang, 9, US
Why do we have to thank our ayis? It’s because they help us. The most important thing they do is take care of us. My ayi is named Zhang Ayi. She helps us from 12pm to 8.30pm every day. We first met Zhang Ayi when I was just 2 years old. She helps me in so many ways; in the summer, when I am done with all my homework, she plays a round of Monopoly with me when my brothers are sleeping. My favorite memories with her are the times she helps me with my homework. Once she heard me yell because I was so frustrated, so she ran over and helped me finish my homework. Gratitude is when you are thankful for something; you can show gratitude by saying thank you to whoever helped you. Thank you, Zhang Ayi, for your help!
Dorothy Asiedu, 10, US
My ayi is named Chang Ayi. She is 51 years old. My ayi has been in my family for almost four years. My family met Chang Ayi when I was having a piano class. A lady overheard my dad saying we needed a babysitter. The lady said we could share her family’s ayi for a while. In the end, Chang Ayi decided to stay with our family and has been with us since. She feels like a family member now. She cooks, picks us up from school, cleans up the house, and keeps us organized. She might even come with us to America. She has always been kind to me. One of my greatest memories with Chang Ayi was when she took my sisters and me to a really fun place. It was like an indoor play area, but really huge! We had a blast. Thank you, Chang Ayi, for everything you have done for me.
Joshua Sobhani, 9, Canada/UK
The ayis at school are people who are very special. They work very hard. I’m not sure when our school ayis came, but it was probably when the school started 11 years ago. Our school ayis are always cleaning the classrooms, bathrooms, hallways, etc. If we leave our classroom looking like a dump yard, the next day it’s like a castle. It’s not magic, it’s the school ayis! One day, I forgot my water bottle on the floor and the next day it was on the window sill. They didn’t put it in the lost and found and it wasn’t thrown out; it was just put in on the window sill for safekeeping. I think gratitude is opening your heart and saying or doing something that makes someone feel appreciated. It’s just like if someone opens the door for you and you remember to say thank you, the other person is grateful and it makes them feel happy too. Gratitude is very important. It is a proven fact that when you are grateful to someone in your life, you will become happier. Keep on being grateful, one thank you at a time and you will have a very happy life. Thank you, ayis, for making our school and world a cleaner place!
Keegan Nelson, 9, US
I first met my friend’s driver when I first moved to China. Even though she is my friend’s family’s driver, she drives me too because I carpool with my friend. Not only is she nice, but she buys candy and delicious snacks to gives us if we’re hungry. She always helps me open the heavy van door and sometimes even helps me with my homework. Can you imagine going to pick up kids? That must be so tiring! She never ever yells at us even when we make her super angry. She never complains if I am late or being too crazy or anything. My favorite memory with my driver is when she said “Happy New Year” in Chinese and we talked for awhile. We exchanged small gifts and it was a great way to celebrate Chinese New Year. Gratitude is saying something to show that you are thankful. Giving gifts and, most of all, being kind are what I call gratitude. Gratitude is great because it lets everyone you appreciate feel good.
"I think gratitude is opening your heart and saying or doing something that makes someone feel appreciated"
Nikolas Tanner, 9, US
What is gratitude? Gratitude is showing through your action that you appreciate someone. My ayi’s name is Xiao Ayi and she is my family ayi. I met her when I was born. She usually helps my mom. Once, in kindergarten, I cracked my head! While my mom was getting the keys and getting the car ready, my ayi took a towel and tried to stop the bleeding. I’m thankful to my ayi because she does many things like helps me study better and get to fifth grade. Before, I didn’t think about how important my ayi is, but now I know she is very important. Kids can show gratitude by being respectful, showing cooperation, and being grateful. I think showing gratitude is important. For all the hard work our ayis do for us and our families, the least we can do is show gratitude and say thank you!
Ella Smith, 10, US/China
My ayi’s name is Wang Ayi and I met her when I was 1. She worked for my family before I was adopted. Wang Ayi helps me every day with my homework, cleans, and cooks! She cooks my favorite meal once a week. My favorite memory with her is from when I was little. She would take me to the park and then we would come home and eat lunch together. We would mainly eat noodles. I am thankful for her because she is the best in the world. Other kids out there should be thankful for drivers and ayis and remember to thank them. Showing gratitude is important because it makes the person feel good! Thank you, Wang Ayi, you have really affected my life. Thank you for helping
me from the time I was little until now helping me now with my Chinese homework. Thank you, Wang Ayi. I love you.
Alison Zou, 10, US
My ayi’s name is Zhou Wei. She is my family’s ayi and she has been with us since I was born. When I was small I didn’t think about how important she is but now I am older and I know how wonderful she is. My ayi always helps me when I need her. She is caring, cooks my favorite meals, helps me with my homework, and tries to never let me get hurt. I like her because she is funny, benevolent, and sometimes silly. One time, we were going ice skating and she said “Ah, I forgot to bring your ice skates and skating clothes!” I was upset. Then she laughed loudly and said, “I’m just kidding!” We both laughed. That is my favorite memory with her. I am so thankful for her. I think gratitude is remembering to show appreciation by being respectful and also showing through your action that you appreciate them. Showing gratitude is important and will make people happy and grateful. Once again, thank you Zhou Wei Ayi!
Gratitude in Action
Gratitude doesn’t come naturally to young children; it’s a behavior that is learned and reinforced with time. Try some of these tips from parenting.com and today.com to foster a grateful mindset in kids of all ages.
• Draw thank-you pictures. When kids receive a gift, make sure they draw the donor a thank-you picture within a designated time. Scribbles are OK! If they’re old enough to write, ask them to write a thank-you note. One sentence per grade level is the rule of thumb.
• Start a gratitude jar. Set aside a jar with blank pieces of paper nearby. Make a routine out of adding filled-out bits of paper to the jar, then find time to read the cards together as a family.
• Say it out loud. Every night at dinner, each family member can take turns saying what they were thankful for that day.
• Say it with Post-It notes. Leave sticky notes for family members to thank them for for something they did. Remind them to pay it forward.
• Make birthdays selfless. Every birthday, ask your kids to share a list of things they’re grateful for according to their age. For example, a 5-year-old can list five things they’re grateful for.
• Make a video. With smartphones and iPads, it’s easy for kids to make a quick thank-you video for someone who gave them a gift or showed them kindness.
• Get artsy. Using printed pictures from your smartphone or old magazines, make a collage with your kids to create a visual representation of the things they’re thankful for.
• Take them shopping. Whether it’s a friend’s or another family member’s birthday, kids like picking out presents. While they might need a reminder that now isn’t time to shop for them, the upside is that children are more likely to take pride in giving when they take part in choosing the gift.
• Practice the art of saying “no.” Kids will always ask for new stuff, whether it’s a new Lego set, their favorite candy, or a video game. It’s hard for a child to feel grateful when their every wish gets granted; saying “no” makes the occasional “yes” that much better.
• Find the silver lining in every situation. If the big game is canceled due to pollution, tell your child this gives them more time to practice. If they can’t ride their bike because of the rain, remind them they’re fortunate to have a warm home. It’s not about being preachy; it’s about helping them recognize that every setback has a silver lining.