It's a simple act of kindness that's not unheard of in the United States: A young man buys a homeless woman some fries, and then shares some water with her. In China, however, the scene was so notable the young man has gained international attention, and the comic-book-worthy moniker of "American French Fry Brother."
Jason Loose, a California native studying in Nanjing, probably didn't think too much about what he was doing. "I gave some food that isn't really even healthy to an old woman and talked with her for a few minutes," Loose told the Los Angeles Times. "I don't see much that's newsworthy about that."
Many Chinese citizens have begged to differ. As Loose chatted with the old woman, a bystander snapped some photos and posted them on a Chinese microblogging site called Sina Weibo. The pictures went viral, with many posters expressing admiration for Loose's kindness.
"Chinese people, let's all learn from this," read one post, while others accused Loose of putting on a show or being a pushy American (he did, after all, give her McDonald's). However, Loose seems to think the figurative mountain from his charitable molehill is due to China's well-documented epidemic of social apathy. He says several Chinese correspondents have told him his story was popular because it was sensational for some Chinese citizens to see an act of kindness, no matter how small, performed by a foreigner in their country.
Recently, China has been rocked by several political scandals that have undoubtedly damaged national morale, and CNN's Fareed Zakaria says he thinks Loose's "American French Fry Brother" moment was a welcome bit of good news. If this is true, then it serves to prove that charity, even in something as seemingly commonplace as a kind moment with a stranger, is universally valued.
So many times, as America is dogged with impending elections and a laundry list of contentious domestic issues, a small piece of good news such as this can change someone's day. In that way, China's affection for their "French Fry Brother" is a familiar tale. In a world of bad news, kindness, even in the smallest form, is sometimes the story that sticks with you no matter where you are.