Amid pandemic and bias attacks, Asian Americans stepped up to help | The Invisible Minority

In the Lin household in Whitestone, Queens, the kitchen is often the most popular room of the house. There are a lot of capable hands here. For Albert Lin, his two younger siblings, and their parents, it is about more than sustenance. Food under their roof is about family, doing things for each other. A form of caring that's worth spending time on, and not punched in to be delivered by some app. 

As the pandemic gripped New York last year, reports of hospital workers unable to eat got Albert heated. 

"Seeing how the doctors and nurses at the ICU, they were working tirelessly risking their lives to deal with this virus, to hear that they didn't have time or place to go get lunch, it was like, 'Come on really?'" Lin, a high school sophomore, said. "They're working so hard, they don't have the necessities. That really made me want to do something about it."

Lin jumped into action, with the help of his mother and siblings they started cooking as much food as they could out of their home kitchen. They prepared over 40 meals at a time, packaged them individually, and then loaded up a car to deliver the food to two hospitals in Manhattan — complete with a card. 

His act of generosity for total strangers was featured in the ethnic press.

"It felt great, I felt really happy, I felt like I really made a difference," Lin said. "They made us a huge thank you poster as well with her names and stuff that just made me really happy."

On the other side of the East River, also in the middle of a pandemic, NYU student Bincheng Mao started translating hospital information that was previously only available in English. He created the East Coast Coalition, or ECC, which expanded language access to include Japanese, Spanish, Hebrew, and more.

Working for a more inclusive healthcare system, he got the attention of the Clinton Foundation, which gave ECC a grant to increase its impact.

Mao's voice has been side-by-side with some familiar faces and conversations to address the racist violence that's exploded nationwide.

"We really want to break the echo chamber in terms of who might be tuning into this form to this discussion," Mao, a second-year student at NYU, said.

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But even as Lin and Mao were being their best good Samaritan selves, New York City and the country were quietly bearing witness to an alarming surge in violence directed at Americans of Asian descent. Lin and Mao both personally became victims of that hatred.

"It was a rather painful moment for me," Mao recalled to Fox 5 about being attacked in the grocery store when, waiting to pay, a man got in his face.

"He pointed his finger at me and yelled, 'You virus get out!' He then poured his half-drunk water on my face," Mao said. "After he poured water, I was in complete shock. And he turned around as if looking for something else to use as a weapon, so I dropped everything, I ran out."

Lin told FOX 5 NY that when he got on a bus with a classmate, a man singled him out and verbally harassed him when he cleaned off his seat before sitting down.

"He asked me if I had the virus or not," Lin said. "He said, 'Everyone on the bus, just look at him, how he is so scared of the virus.'"

How did that make him feel?

"More nervous than anger or anything. I just didn't know what to do," he said. "My mind just blanked."

And in neither case did anyone intervene or help in any way.

"Not only did this person attack me and call me a virus but nobody wanted to help at the time," Mao said. "That was what makes this moment particularly hurtful for me."

What makes the story even more impressive is that our two good Samaritans separately were victims in bias incidents but they were determined not to let that affect them when he came to helping strangers.

"I try to at least remind myself that I shouldn't be bitter that this happened to me. Instead, I should throw myself back in the fight because other people are suffering," Mao said. "If this can happen to me it can happen to other people."

Lin also reacted with humanity. 

"Violence isn't going to solve anything — just help out when we can, just be a good person," Lin said. "If you treat others with kindness, naturally, they'll be kind to you back."

Just as Lin is inspired by his mother, Connie, Mao is inspired by his mother, Chai Liu, a doctor who was among those the first to treat SARS patients. Not knowing what might happen, she left him a note in case she died. He found it by accident and never forgot her message.

"She ended the letter with a Chinese proverb that means, 'Don't avoid doing something good just because it looks small,'" Mao said. "And that's become one of my guiding values."

Journalist Rong Xiaoqing contributed to this report.