Reading at a Senior Home: One Elder’s Reaction

“A single spark can set a prairie on fire.” -Chinese proverb

This saying, although centuries old, is closely associated with an essay entitled, “A Single Spark Can Start a Prairie Fire,” by Mao Zedong. In his document dated January 5, 1930, he talks about his idea to win over the masses and ensure a successful revolution. He urged the conquest of rural areas and having “an armed independent regime of workers and peasants” before surrounding the cities and taking over the government. His tactics were so solid that they led to the success of the Communist leadership in China. The defeated government landed in Taiwan, and the Kuomintang took over the island. Unfortunately, there was unrest after the takeover, which led to the killing of numerous Taiwanese citizens. The start of this terror is known only by three numbers, 2-2-8 (it all started happening on February 28, 1947). This incident and the events afterward, particularly how this trauma translates down through the generations even decades later, inspired my novel, The 228 Legacy.

I had a chance to recently read to a group of elderly at a local senior home. It was a small, intimate setting where I read excerpts from my book and held a Q&A discussion afterwards. One man, Eugene, took one look at the book’s title and said, “I know what 228 is.” He then recounted his experience of being a high school student during that tumultuous time. He kept repeating about how they “had to hide” because they were all afraid of the gunshots ringing in the air outside.


I later spoke to the Activities Coordinator of this senior home. She mentioned that Eugene doesn’t usually speak up and isn’t interested in a lot of the activities. She was excited to see the animation in his face when he saw my book. I’m hoping I set off the single spark in his life that will lead to a journey of healing for him.

Have you ever set off a spark, and how?

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  1. Glad your novel spoke to Eugene. He looks happy in this picture. I hope your single spark leads to healing, too.

  2. Jennifer,
    What a great feeling for you to have inspired him! I am so glad that your reading and your book could get him interested. He might be the perfect candidate for the the book on tape!


    • jenniferjchow says

      Hi Carol,
      I didn’t even think about books on tape–you’re right. Of course, then I would have to figure out the whole audiobook industry…

  3. That’s so awesome, Jennifer! It’s so wonderful to see how your book can have an immediate affect in someone’s life. I’m not sure if I set off a spark with my book, but people often tell me that my enthusiasm is infectious, and they are motivated to be better at whatever they’re doing after a talk with me…which makes me happy, too!

    • jenniferjchow says

      Thanks, Ashley! That’s great that people think your enthusiasm is infectious. I think a positive attitude really helps those around us.

  4. Carol is spot on. Check out Joanna Penn’s podcasts on audio books on The Creative Penn. Must get a copy of your book!

  5. Beautiful story, Jennifer. I imagine sparks like this happen often when people read, but the authors aren’t usually there to see it happen. It’s so amazing that you got to see it!

    • jenniferjchow says

      It’s so affirming to talk to readers who appreciate my story. Even if I made just a small difference in this one man’s life, it was all worth it!

  6. Wow Jen that really is an awesome experience– I hope it did set off a spark in his life!

  7. What a wonderful experience! I bet it felt great to see how your hard work touched someone’s life. I bet that makes it all worth it. Thanks for sharing this – great inspiration for those of us who keep thinking, “Does what I write even matter?”

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