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Courtesy of Hon-Ming Lam

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My Daughter's Birthday Present

"As you are about to graduate from college and go into society, we’d like to give you some suggestions."


English Translation of Hon-Ming Lam’s Article on 15 September 2019.


My dearest daughter:

You’re another year older tomorrow; first, an early happy birthday to you. You’re already a fully grown adult, while your parents already have frosty hair; we feel that time goes by fast.

The non-stop bedtime stories of yonder, “Papa Driver” who always delivers, those days are still fresh in our mind; however, now that we want to reserve time to eat out with you, we often end up settling for a speedy breakfast. Some time ago you yearned for going to work with me; now you would desire a life of your own without your parents by your side.

This empty-nester experience for us parents often resembles the weightlessness when you free-fall or the chilly winter mornings right when you wake up. Perhaps you might appreciate this when your kids grow up one day.

When you were a kid, you bemoaned the stress we gave you. We hope that you understand that we’re not demanding you to be the best at everything but rooting for you to learn to pay your full effort.

To be honest, we are a bit selfish. We never wish that you were a genius because we don’t want you to be overwhelmed with too much pressure; we just hope that you have enough ability to chase your own dreams. We don’t even dare hope that everything would be smooth sailing and work out as you’ve had hoped; if only you have more good luck to untangle problems and turn difficulty into opportunity and bring an end to days of sadness.


As you are about to graduate from college and go into society, we’d like to give you some suggestions.

...use your career to showcase yourself, serve others, and give back to society.

In this chaotic world, we hope that you will harbor integrity, kindness, and grace, along with the ability to have independent and critical thinking. Be willing to fight for what’s right, but avoid echoing the views of others. Stand up for justice but never let hate fill your soul.

When you enter the workplace, do your work the right way. Don’t see your work just as a tool to obtain money, but instead use your career to showcase yourself, serve others, and give back to society. Let the world have more joy and less hatred. Before your powerful superiors, be neither arrogant nor subservient; there’s no need to be submissive, nor curry favor. When you have the power, be kind-hearted and draw a clear line between your private and public affairs.

Those who share the same interests, the same team, and the same camp as you might not be lifelong friends. Real companions appreciate your temperament, while the friendship will not be affected despite a change in position or status. Real companions support you all the way and provide constructive criticism; they are like a mirror that allows you to discern.

If and when you form a family, be prepared to pay a price and sacrifice. A family requires cultivation and sustenance; if you’re not willing to pay a price and sacrifice, now may not be the time to form a family. Family is a pillar in life; when we are about to say our final goodbyes, what we hope the most is to see you have a happy family. In that way, we could move on without worry.

We planned to give you a birthday present, but there’s not much you need materialistically. Why don’t you choose to do something good, and we sponsor your endeavor? Those who share happiness are truly blessed.

Courtesy of Hon-Ming Lam



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Hon-Ming Lam

Hon-Ming first obtained his B.Sc and M.Phil. degrees at the CUHK, then completed his Ph.D. at Northwestern University, with research interests including climate-smart and sustainable agriculture. He then returned to teach in the School of Life Sciences of CUHK, becoming the director of the Molecular Biotechnology Program, Center for Soybean Research and State Key Laboratory of Agrobiotechnology. As a national expert in plant and agricultural biotechnology, Professor Lam is a visiting professor at four Chinese higher learning institutions as well. Apart from research, he is the Student Hostel Warden of CUHK’s Daisy Li Hall of New Asia College. Professor Lam has published two books, stories from which appear here on The Xylom.

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