A Raffle Memory by Ellen Zhang

A Raffle Memory by Ellen Zhang

 

The grand ball descends amid thousands who await, freezing and eager, in Times Square Meanwhile, some people, like me, live through this once-in-a-lifetime moment with their eyes glued onto the screen and snug in their warm house. A slow countdown shudders every nerve of my body, and, before I know it, there is cheering. The New Year has begun. For me, however, the year has not truly begun. Because what is New Year without red lanterns, the aroma of pork dumplings, and the coveted red bags filled with cash? More importantly, what is Chinese New Year without the New Year Gala? This is my story regarding a memorable New Year, community bonding, and some incredible raffle tickets.

 While my friends were worrying over the drama of celebrating Valentine’s Day during high school, I had bigger things on mind: the economic situation of the New Year Gala organized by the American Chinese School of Greater Detroit. The Gala was something I anticipated for every year. As a child, I sat through it with wondrous eyes; now, as a student teacher who continues to be amazed at the dancers in their bright traditional garments and the Beijing opera singers. This year, I was heartbroken to be informed that the Gala would perhaps not be possible due to the financial burden it was. However, with further discussion, the Chinese School Board Committee decided to sell raffles for a reasonable price with the lure of fantastic awards. My sunken spirits were lifted and I, along with many around me, sold tickets to everyone we knew. I mastered the skill of persuading, badgering, and coaxing to promote tickets and to invite buyers to watch the spectacular performance . I talked to close friends and neighbors, and even went around my subdivision in hopes of raising sales. Slowly, but surely, the roll of tickets got thinner and thinner throughout the week. I don’t know how many tickets I sold, or how many my friends sold; all I know for certain is that that night, before the lights dimmed, I looked out to see more people who came watch the Gala than I have ever seen before. Between the performance of the Chinese Yo-yo and a folk song, raffle numbers were called in booming voices and those with jubilant faces ran to get their prizes. The night ended with the sound of applause ringing in my ears as the show concluded with the announcement that raffle tickets would be sold every year to fundraise for the New Year Gala.

On the day of the New Year, family and friends came over to celebrate a time of change, renewal, and a year filled with hopes and promises of greater and better things to come. The lulling sounds of mandarin filled my house while the appetizing scent of warm delicious food filled my lungs. As the New Year gingerly dawned before me, I sank into contemplation. Fingering my red raffle ticket at home–I didn’t end up winning one of the prizes–I thought deeply about this year’s Gala. The shows were as stunning as ever with every individual having remarkable talent. However, what struck me most was the diversity I saw in the crowd. The crowd that typically consisted of Asians was much more diverse coming from not just the Chinese community but the Community of Detroit. Pride swelled up in my heart as I thought of the showcase of Chinese culture. Dimples carved into my cheeks as I thought back to the moments of convincing people to buy my tickets: tiring but fun all at once. Just as importantly, I felt a stronger sense of belonging with the Chinese community that has supported me throughout my life; in a moment of need, everyone, young and old alike, came together for a greater cause: to support a school and environment where ideas flourished and innovation is nurtured. I gently place the ticket onto my desk. Maybe I did win, after all.

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Contributed by Ellen Zhang

September 14, 2015

 

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