Experiences and Reflections on Clarifying the Truth in Manhattan (Part 1)
(Clearwisdom.net) In order to explain the facts about the persecution of Falun Gong to the people in an international metropolis like Manhattan, we need to make good use of every opportunity, from distributing flyers to holding anti-torture exhibitions on the street. These two primary and essential activities provide us with a chance to show ourselves in a positive light. We can deliver our message to people from different walks of life in every district of New York. If we can truly do it well, every act and every statement, every conversation and every seemingly chance look into another's eyes will effectively eliminate the evil factors' influence and control over people and truly help every New Yorker to make the best choice for his or her future. At the same time, it is also an opportunity to improve our character and skills in clarifying the truth.
1. Practitioners' Selfless Acts Change New Yorkers
During the Republican National Convention in New York, many practitioners made great efforts to come to Manhattan to clarify the truth. For instance, some practitioners worked overtime for several days so that they could take off one or two weekdays to come to Manhattan. Some practitioners who live in the suburban areas of Manhattan worked extra hard so they could get off work earlier for a few days every week. After work, they either drove or took public transportation, sometimes for several hours, to rush to Manhattan and distribute flyers for a few hours. Some practitioners spent both Saturdays and Sundays in Manhattan. Practitioners overcame many difficulties in arranging for their meals, lodging, transportation and communication to live frugally in New York for several days at a time. They went out early and came back late to clarify the truth. Some practitioners voluntarily prepared materials designed to inform the public about Falun Dafa or helped provide additional support to create a group experience sharing and cultivation environment for those who came from other places.
As a result of practitioners' efforts over the past few weeks, notable changes have been taking place in Manhattan. When we first started to distribute flyers on the street, many people had never heard of Falun Gong. Now when we distribute flyers, we often hear people telling us, "I already have your flyer." In the beginning, most people behaved indifferently and refused our flyers. Now, even though there are still some people who don't understand the truth, many will nod or smile to us when we greet them with a smile and hand them flyers. Some even stop and exchange a few words with us as they rush by. Some ask for flyers when we are too busy to notice them or ask for more copies for their friends after they have a conversation with us. Some people share their information about Falun Gong with more people after talking with us. Some people come back to ask questions after they read the material.
2. Using Display Boards Prompts New Yorkers to Ask Questions
Practitioners from Washington, DC, used display boards to clarify truth, which worked very well. The portable display board can be held by one person. It's about half the size of a standard poster and is usually made of cardboard or plastic, materials that are light and strong. The pictures or phrases on the boards have been carefully chosen so that they accurately and clearly deliver our message to passers-by. This type of small display board has been widely used in the US in parades and assemblies and when distributing flyers. They are more effective than banners since they are easier for someone to hold and easier for viewers to read. In our situation, since the passers-by are close to us, more information can be conveyed since a display board can include both pictures and sentences, but banners can't. Outdoor banners often sway or fold in the wind making them hard for people to read. A display board, however, is very stable. So Americans usually think that a good picture with a few well-chosen words is more effective in getting the message across.
I want to share a few stories about using the portable display boards. I once drove to Manhattan. After I parked my car and took out the display board, I made sure everything was in order with the flyers neatly stacked and the board in good condition. I held the display board and the flyers in a position that was easy for others to read and for me to walk. Then I put on my backpack. As my head was lowered making sure everything was all right, a boy suddenly ran up to me and said, "Wish you good luck!" When I raised my head, he looked into my eyes and nodded at me hard. When he saw I didn't understand him, he quietly pointed to the display board that I had not yet erected. It pictured an older, Western practitioner demonstrating one of the tortures used in China. Under the picture in bold letters it says in English "Stop persecuting Falun Gong in China." I immediately understood what he was saying. I looked into his eyes and said, "Thank you." He nodded hard again, "You did well." I asked him, "Do you want to a flyer? You can share Falun Gong stories with your family and your friends." He was very happy. He took a flyer and read it as he walked away.
The day before the Republican National Conference began on August 29, I was walking alone near 60th Street and 5th Avenue, holding a display board. A lot of limousines and drivers were waiting along the curb. Some looked like reporters or staff members. Many people noticed the board in my hand when I passed by. Some took my flyers. When I pleasantly thanked those who took the flyers, they and their companions all looked cheerful. Three professional-looking young men stopped their conversation when they saw the sign in my hand. When I passed near them, one of them calmly asked, "What is this about?" I briefly told him what Falun Gong was, how it has been welcomed since its introduction in 1992, how it has been severely persecuted in China since 1999, by whom and for what reason the persecution was initiated, and why Falun Gong practitioners refuse to lie even under the threat of persecution. He was obviously a quick thinker with good comprehension abilities. When I said that at least a thousand practitioners had been persecuted to death for refusing to give up cultivating Falun Gong since 1999, he said solemnly, "I will pray for you." I smiled and thanked him sincerely. I turned around and continued to walk.
I arrived at an intersection next to a luxury hotel on 5th Avenue. Not many people took the flyers there that day, but everyone who passed read the display board. I also felt that the board attracted many glances from the countless windows in the nearby buildings.
I ran into a few people who "accidentally" talked to me. One of them was a very pretty Caucasian girl. She appeared to be less than ten years old and had very good manners. Her mother stopped, with her daughter next to me, and talked to two people. She had her back towards me, as if I were not there. The little girl, however, looked at the board with interest. I smiled at her encouragingly and turned the board a little bit so she could see it more clearly. After a while, when I turned around to look at her again, she was turning around to look at me also, and her big eyes expressed interest. I smiled and nodded to her, asking her with my eyes if she wanted a flyer. She looked at her mother and hesitated a little bit before she took a flyer from me. Then she boldly stepped forward and said to me sincerely, "I hope you get what you want." I bent down slightly and looked into her big eyes, which were filled with sympathy, and said, "Thank you. You are a very nice girl. Please tell the story of Falun Gong to more people. That way you are helping us to stop the persecution." She was relatively young, so she was speechless for a while before she responded, "I will."
Another Caucasian lady was wearing a dignified, tailored dress and didn't look like a tourist, a causal shopper, or an ordinary employee. She passed by me calmly but suddenly stopped. She took a look at the board and smiled as she said hello to me. She then said, "I already know about the persecution, but what do you want the US and Americans to do for you?" So we had an opportunity to talk briefly. She asked few questions and then she elegantly expressed her opinion. She said that China always did whatever it wanted to do; however, the US also had its own problems that needed to be solved. She thought that President Bush might not be tough enough for China to pay attention to his opinion. I gently responded, "Over the long term, sooner or later justice will surface. Sometimes we may not see immediate results for something, however, we still have to do what we are supposed to do, otherwise the evil forces will be more rampant, and the benevolent and innocent people will suffer more. In addition, China is no longer the world of Jiang Zemin alone." I stopped at this point, as it seemed I had said enough. She looked into my eyes, smiled, and left.
I stood at the entrance of a big bank, facing the street. I held the display board and distributed flyers. I tried to keep myself alert and smiling. When I stood straight, the board was also held straight, whether there were people passing by or not, whether people took flyers from me or not. A professional stepped out of the bank behind me and said, "Please give me one." He asked for a newspaper in English that had "Falun Dafa" in distinctive type on the masthead and went straight into the busy stream of people. My intuition as a cultivator told me that he must have observed me for quite a while in the bank before he came out to ask for the material.
I also met people who had taken flyers elsewhere. When they saw me holding a display board by myself, they hesitated to come to talk to me. When I noticed this, I usually said hello to them first and told them with a smile that if they had any questions, to feel free to ask me. Many asked, "What exactly is Falun Gong?" Many asked about what was truly happening. Some asked if I was the same as those people protesting on another street. It turned out that other practitioners were holding an anti-torture exhibition at a location where permits were issued. Practitioners often held their banners facing the buildings, with their backs towards the street. Other practitioners meditated for a long time, facing the buildings next to the anti-torture exhibition. Many Americans who passed by in a hurry didn't understand what was going on and thought we were protesting against some companies in that building. For these people, I often smiled and said, "Oh, we all practice Falun Gong, but we are not protesting. Instead we are trying to make the public aware of Falun Gong." Then I spent a few minutes briefly describing the situation of Falun Gong from 1992 to 1999 and from 1999 to the present. A lot of people complimented us and then asked what they could do to help.
I also met many people who opposed the persecution but felt they couldn't do anything about it. They said, "There are many problems everywhere. Bad things happen everywhere. We can hardly do anything to help you. You probably just have to pray for yourself." I would continue my conversation with them, ask them to help by praying for Falun Gong, and tell them it would help if they shared their Falun Gong information with their families and friends. Moreover, I knew that many New Yorkers lived very stressful lives and felt helpless about a lot of things. So I told them, "The reason I come here to tell you about Falun Gong is not just to help the Falun Gong practitioners in China but also to help everyone. If everyone treasures 'truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance,' bad things won't happen so often. There will be more and more good people, and the world will become better and better. Even if right now we may not have a choice about living in an unsatisfactory environment, our minds and bodies will be able to endure more and handle things better, and our lives will be more meaningful." Sometimes I even gave a few examples of how fellow practitioners and I myself have benefited from cultivation.
People liked to hear about Falun Gong. Some took our flyers when they learned about the persecution. After they learned about the benefits of Falun Dafa, they asked for the newspaper. Some asked for several copies for their families and friends. Some worried that no practitioners were distributing flyers in the street where their friends lived, so they asked for an extra copy for their friends. Sometimes I had only a limited amount of materials left and wanted to save some, so I asked them if they would like to have one flyer and one newspaper and share with their families. Most of the time they were reluctant and wanted to have their own copy, so I just satisfied their requests.
A lady came directly to me for a flyer when she saw the display board. She also asked, "Where is the school?" She was actually asking where she could learn Falun Gong, because her friend told her that Falun Gong had very good health benefits. An old man in Manhattan had wanted to learn Falun Gong for a long time, but there was no practice site near his home, and he hadn't bothered to find one far away. When he met us, he asked for more materials to read.
In the subway station, many people paid attention to my board. Some came over to ask for materials after they looked at the board for a while. Some were too shy to ask, so I handed one to them. People who took a flyer often read it carefully.
One time I took the wrong subway. After I got aboveground, I found out that I had to walk a long way to my destination. Because my time was limited that day, I decided to walk fast. Even so, people frequently stopped me because they saw the display board in my hand. (I always made sure to hold my board in a position that was easy for people to read, so I was holding an "anti-torture photo exhibition" at all times.) People stopped me to ask questions. Some saw the flyers or newspapers in my hand and asked for one. Once I passed a small park and gave a flyer to a passer-by who was walking towards me from the opposite direction and looking at the board. I also talked to him a little bit. Further on, a black woman was sitting on a bench watching her child play. As I was in a hurry, I walked by her quickly. She hadn't expected me to pass by without giving her a flyer, so she called out after I had walked past her, "Miss, what is it all about? Can you give me a flyer?" I looked around. Nobody else was distributing flyers. I realized that she was calling for me. So I turned around and handed her a flyer with a smile. She carefully read the board and asked a few questions with a lot of interest before she let me go.
Once I was heading to the "anti-torture exhibition" to look for another practitioner. I walked fast on my way and didn't pay much attention to distributing flyers. I just held the display board to show people and sent righteous thoughts when I walked. The owner of a store that sold souvenirs and decorations stopped me. He wanted to see more clearly what was on the board. After he read it, he asked for a flyer. People from the nearby stores also read the board. They each took a flyer back to their counters to read.
At the entrance of a bank on 42nd Street, five gentlemen in trim business suits passed by my display board. When I saw them, they were only two steps away from me. They didn't look like ordinary working people. I thought I shouldn't miss these people whom we rarely had the opportunity to meet. Even though I didn't have time to say hello, I just quickly handed a flyer to the one person who was surrounded by the others. He was astonished and instinctively shied away from me. I saw his reaction and greeted him with a smile, "Hello, how are you?" Then I said, "Please help us to stop the persecution." Fortunately they had already seen my display board as they approached, so he didn't get upset with me. One of the people next to him (either his bodyguard or his assistant) hinted with a friendly look that I should give him a flyer . I handed him one as well. All this happened in just a few seconds. His boss complimented me with a smile. Later, when they were making phone calls on the sidewalk not far from me, the assistant read his flyer very carefully.
When we tell the truth about Falun Gong on the streets in Manhattan, we may run into all kinds of people, including those whom we have forgotten to contact and those who are hard to catch. We may meet media reporters, businessmen, businesswomen, or politicians. It is essential to be able to clearly and completely clarify the truth in just a few minutes, to accurately and briefly point out the key points, and to talk in a way that is easily understood. To do this requires that we continue to add to our knowledge base, that we are able to think clearly, and that we learn how to speak effectively to westerners, in addition to cultivating our character as Dafa practitioners. Every time I went to Manhattan to clarify the truth, I realized the importance of organizing information and materials. I had an opportunity to ponder and to learn, and I also felt part of the progress of Fa-rectification. In sharing my experience, I have realized, as have the many other practitioners who have been clarifying the truth in Manhattan, that facing such a complicated international metropolis, we must keep our minds clear and rational at all times. We must constantly improve ourselves in order to better clarify the truth to more people; we must adapt ourselves to the demand of Fa-rectification in a timely way; and we must meet our responsibilities to accomplish our mission.
(To be continued)