“Loving Chinatown is Good for your health!”

By Rev. Norman Fong

January 8, 2018

My mother who was born in Chinatown taught me a huge lesson in life: “More important than just making money is loving your community & God”. (She was very religious). She chose to stay in Chinatown to work all her life because she thought that serving the community was really important (because she spoke English, she said she could have gotten a higher paid job elsewhere in the city back in the ‘50s).

ping yuen

Before my mom & dad passed away, I promised them that I would serve Chinatown all my life. I also became a pastor in Chinatown which I know mom & dad really was so proud of for different reasons. My dad was so happy when I became a minister, because he said I changed so much and came home every day to wash the dishes and help the family. My mom was so proud that I chose to serve God through helping Chinatown! She understood that there was something special about serving our home community.

There are so many benefits to serving our home community that I wanted to share with everyone in this new year. For the youth, there are so many benefits in terms of happiness & finding meaning in life when you get to serve the Chinatown & the broader Chinese Community. I have always felt so happy working for Chinatown all my life because I get paid to do what I want to do in life! I love our seniors & families so much, I get to help them every day!

portsmouth square


For the seniors (who I always think of as my parents), I get to engage them in many concerns for Chinatown whether it’s advocating for better housing or a new Portsmouth Square. I actually didn’t know about the health benefits until years ago, the son of one of our seniors told me: “You helped add at least 10 years to my mom’s life”. I asked him to explain. He said, “my mom lived a lot longer because she helped Chinatown CDC with fighting for Chinatown”.

I actually took his mom with me to Washington DC to advocate for the Chinatown Central Subway. She was the leader for the Community Tenants Association (CTA) in the past and went to so many public hearings to speak on the need for more affordable housing for Chinatown & the city. Somehow, at a very old age, she had the strong spirit of a young activist! Purpose in life, can add years to your living and her purpose was to join the fight for preserving Chinatown.

I am so thankful for the many generations of leadership that have fought to keep the oldest Chinatown in America alive and well. Of course, we all love our family & friends, but to love the Chinatown community, even above making a profit, is good for your health. I write this article in deep appreciation for all the seniors & youth I have had the privilege of working with for the past 40 years. I also write this for the Chinese community at large who I hope will continue to “Love Chinatown” as our home. We have tremendous pressures today on Chinatown to “make a lot of money” but we can also choose to sacrifice a bit to keep Chinatown – Chinatown & love our community. Other Chinatowns have lost their culture & community & sold out to “outside” interests in order to make more money… but I am proud that so many in San Francisco Chinatown have chosen to “love & protect” our home.

Originally published in Sing Tao Daily on January 7, 2018

Copyright © 1977-2018 Chinatown Community Development Center
Tel: (415) 984-1450 | E-mail: info@chinatowncdc.org