Honestly, I don’t have many heroes in my life.
Off the top of my head I can only name a handful:
~ both my parents
~ and Michael Sheehy (a great man in his own right)

But another one has to be my Grandfather, James.
In the last couple of months, I’ve spent a good amount time with him and my grandmother in Singapore – making up for lost time since I moved to Australia aged 10.

Couple that with a trip back to my Granddad’s village back in China –


I finally came to a full appreciation of his life and his words.

He left China – by boat on the South China Sea to Singapore – in search of a better life, to provide for his family back in Hainan.

Just a quick side note:
I know that my parents at times feel bad for leaving Singapore, leaving their country of birth, leaving their family behind – to bring my brothers and I to Australia, for a shot at a new and better life.

For plentiful opportunity.

But I hope that amidst the feelings of separation – they can see in themselves what Granddad did for his family.
They shared his foresight.
His love for family.
His belief in opportunity.

Whilst in China, a lot of people that I met (most for the first time) would come up to me and tell me all the things that my Granddad did to help them.
And I’m talking about numerous people (and you’ve seen the size of China).

They’d talk about how he would take time out to talk to them about personal issues.
Or how he sent money back to assist in the building of the village temple.

Or how he helped build my uncle’s house in the nearby town.

As I lived amongst them for a week, I recognised how my Granddad’s actions have impacted their lives.
His selflessness – is mirrored in them.
The ideology of ‘what can I offer others?’ rather than ‘what can others offer me?’

And as I recall the numerous conversations that he’s had with me, he had hammered home this message for years and years.

He always told me to study hard – so that I could provide value for others.
He always told me to be kind – because at the end of everything, people matter.
He always told me – family first.

When I was younger, I didn’t really understand nor did I take him seriously.
It felt like he was nagging (haha, idiot Ryan).
Only for the message to resonate so clearly to me in the last couple of months.

And as I make my way back to see him once more, I have seen the way people all just upp’ed and left their lives (over the last few months) to be by his side, to see him, to spend time with him.

No questions asked.
No qualms about it.

And if there was any way to measure the worth of a man’s life – it is not to be measured in wealth or riches – but by legacy.

Who is going to be there for you when you need it.
Who’s lives have you touched for the better.
Who have you brought love, hope, honesty.

I’ve come to learn that life is measured by the value you bring.
The value you bring to others.
I might not have understood before, but I sure do understand now.

So thank you Granddad, for all that you’ve done for our family.
I can’t wait to see you again soon.


Ryan Cheng is the founder of The 88, and is passionate about telling stories surrounding travel, culture and identity.

Get in touch ~
Instagram: @chinkinthearmour

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