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白方礼(Bai Fangli: A Remarkable Man)

注:在微信上读了白方礼老人的故事,很受感动。于是写了下面这篇文章,与我的美国朋友们分享。他们读后都非常敬佩这位中国老人。文章的素材均来自网络。
 
 
          What would you do if you turn 74? Would you follow the same path that life has been leading you all along? Or would you shift your focus and do something dramatically different? A man in China showed the world that life after 74 could be influential. He was not an expert of any kind. Nor was he a rich fellow. His name is Bai Fangli. People call him Grandpa Bai. His heroic story has touched the hearts of millions of people, young and old.

          Grandpa Bai was born in a poor family in 1913. He never had a chance to attend school. At age 13, he did odd jobs for a living, later he became a rickshaw driver for most of his life. As an uneducated labor, he suffered from various discrimination and social bias. So he was determined to let his children have the best education. Three of his four children graduated from colleges. He also supported his nephew to achieve a college degree. That an illiterate father raised highly educated children by doing labor work, is an inspiring story already. But the story doesn't end there.

          In 1987, when Grandpa Bai was 74 year old, he visited the village where he was born. He saw school aged children wondering around during the day. He asked them why they didn't go to school. They told him that they didn't have money for school. That night Grandpa Bai couldn't sleep. His heart ached for those poor children. All the miserable memory flashed back. He didn't want those kids to experience the same mishap as he did due to lack of education.

          Most people at the age 74 are enjoying retirement life. Many elderly Chinese focus on their own health, hobbies, children,  and grandchildren.  Grandpa Bai had a small yet steady retirement income to meet his basic needs. Should he continue to live like other retirees, exercising in the park, playing Majiang with friends, doing whatever it takes to ensure a long life? After a few sleepless nights, he called out a family meeting and announced that he would donate all his saving ¥5000 (Yuan) to the school in his hometown village. Not only his family was shocked by his announcement, so was the principal of the school. The principal initially turned down the donation, not because his school didn't need this money, but because he knew that Grandpa Bai had very little to save from. ¥5000 was his life time saving from paddling a rickshaw. However, Grandpa Bai was determined to help those poor kids to get an education. He finally set up an education fund in the village.

          Grandpa Bai's vision of supporting kids' education wasn't limited in his hometown.  He lived in Tianjing, one of the biggest city in northeast China.  A lot of local students need financial aid as well. How to help them? He decided to be a rickshaw driver again. Paddling a rickshaw in the hot summer sun and cold winter night with passenger seating behind is not an easy job for a young man. Yet Grandpa Bai did it day after day, for over ten years, until he was almost 90 years old. The money he earned was all donated to schools and charitable organizations. He even sold his old apartment and used the money to set up a small convenient store so that more people could join him supporting education for the needy. While the staff he hired worked in the store, he still operated his rickshaw. He and his rickshaw became an inspiring icon on the street in Tianjing. By 2001, he had donated ¥350,000 to elementary school, middle school, universities and other education funds. Over 300 students were directly benefited from his donations.

          Not only did he work hard, he also saved every penny he could. He refused buying any new clothes. Steamed buns and water were his main food and drink. When people asked why he chose this life style, he answered,  "It makes me happy if I can help others.  I paddle a rickshaw so that those poor kids do not have to when they grow up. The more I can donate, the more kids will be empowered with knowledge.  I am an illiterate man. I can't contribute much to my country. If I can help kids in college, they might contribute a lot more to our society. "

          In 2001, Grandpa Bai was 88 years old. He could no longer manage the store or operate his rickshaw. So he worked as a bicycle keeper near a train station. His last donation was ¥ 500 in various changes, kept in a lunch box.  He said to the teacher of a middle school, "I can't work anymore. This might be my last donation.  I wish I could do more." Everyone in the room cried.

          Grandpa Bai died in 2005, at the age of 92. On his funeral day, thousands of people came to the street to say goodbye and show their respect to this remarkable man.  People held various banners: "Grandpa Bai, the teachers and students will always miss you." " Special love to special You." In 2009, Grandpa Bai was selected as one of the 100 Inspiring People who Touched China. In 2011, he was honored again for touching China.  People praise him like a candle who lighted the way for others by consuming himself.

Grandpa Bai didn't live a glamorous life like a movie star or basketball hero.  He didn't publish any book to promote his value and vision in education. But his legacy inspires and motivates many of us. In 2006. His rickshaw was auctioned and the money was used to fund New Great Wall Bai Fangli Education Fund. The rickshaw was put on a national exhibition tour to motivate more people to join Grandpa Bai's education crusade.  In 2007, after learning about Granpa Bai, an anonymous donor established  Bai Fangli Education Fun in his alma mater university. He donates  ¥ 100, 000 each year to the university to honor Grandpa Bai and to encourage students to learn from Granpa Bai .  Help others, one  paddle at a time. Everyone can do it. You and me.

 

(写于2014年10月23日)
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