A model for all

Twenty years ago our children were all brought up on the Lei Feng ideal in school. We too were all greatly influenced by it and it set a high tone of thought and behavior for the whole country. We loved and appreciated that influence. Then came the ten disastrous years of disillusion when all idols fell , and good ideas fled, too. But the refined gold of Lei Feng has come through untarnished and the children of today are learning to love him and learn unselfishness from him.

Lei Feng, a little orphan, was rescued by the Liberation in 1949 and grew up to be a selfless, public-spirited young man. In 1956 he worked in a county government office as a messenger boy. Later he worked on a state farm as a tractor driver. In 1958 he was a worker in a steel complex in Anshan, northeast China, as a bulldozer driver. In 1960 he joined the army and became a truck driver. In 1961 he was elected deputy to the city congress. But it was not until after his death in an accident in 1962 that investigations revealed the innumerable kindnesses he had done and the utterly generous help he had given people, always anonymously.

The soldiers he worked with, local schoolchildren, people in trouble on the railway station, women carrying babies in the rain, sick people needing help, overburdened old ladies, country people lost in the town requiring guidance, others needing money, people caught in flood areas, train attendants, saw a smiling young man who seemed to appear when trouble loomed and gave them unstinted loving help.

The publication of his private diary showed even more clearly the selfless heart of this young man and his love for mankind. ''Lei Feng'' soon became a household name in China and a role model for young Chinese.

The point is he was real, not a bogus image set up to deceive the people as so many other ''heroes'' had proved to be. He still helps us face the ugly present-day picture of a disillusioned, loveless, grasping younger generation, which has been called, wrongly, the ''lost generation.''

The papers, in their newly won freedom, have printed many of the Naboth-vineyard type of story to criticise the young people's false values, so we are now delighted to read their new articles showing the resurgence of the good Lei Feng spirit, and to know that the children in school are again learning to follow the example of ''Uncle Lei Feng.''

Here is the first of two true stories: A girl silk filature worker, whom we will call Hsiulan, is engaged to a machine worker in the same factory in Soochow. The young couple planned to live contentedly on their total wage of about Y100. Then, most unexpectedly, Hsiulan's godmother in Shanghai, with whom she had lived when a girl, left her a legacy of Y100,000. This meant that Hsiulan and her future husband could give up work and live on the interest (five times their monthly joint wages) for the rest of their lives. But Hsiulan made newspaper history by giving the whole Y100,000 to the government. She said, ''Our country is still poor; she needs the money. I am used to working, and I didn't earn that money.'' Her fiance agreed.

''What a remarkable young couple! This is the spirit we love and encourage among our young people,'' was the immediate consensus.

My second true story: There were serious floods in Szechuan Province last summer. A young man went into the post office and handed across the counter Y500 in notes to be remitted to the Szechuan Flood Relief Committee. The girl behind the counter, with her gaze on the notes she was counting, said, ''Please sign your name and address on the form, comrade.'' But when she looked up the young man had disappeared and, to this day, nobody has been able to thank this 1981 Lei Feng for sending his hard-earned savings to the flood victims, just as the 1950s Lei Feng did. Wan sui - May the Lei Feng spirit live ten thousand years!

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