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An Old Pedicab who Gave Everything For The Future

Wednesday, 10.20.2010, 08:11pm (GMT-5)

On December 12th, a 93-year-old Tianjinese was selected as one of the 20 candidates for the  “People Who Moved China” 2005 award. When his name, photo and activities were broadcast with those of Yuan Longping, Liu Xiang and Ren Changxia on CCTV, the whole country was moved —— it was very difficult for general public to connect the 350,000 RMB donation with an old and thin person who lay paralyzed in bed.

‘An old man, a pedicab, 350,000 RBM donation, 300 poor students……’ when all these words are connected together, the difficulty, misunderstanding, persistence and charitable love of an old man’s life was unrolled before the eyes of general public.

This generous old man was Bai Fangli. 

In Daoism, it said that a great brightness seems like darkness; a great square has no corners; a great ability takes a long time to perfect; a great sound is hard to hear; a great form has no shape. It also said that a great perfection seems flawed; a great fullness seems empty; a great straightness seems crooked; a great skill seems clumsy and a great eloquence seems stammering.

Bai Fangli led a simple lifestyle. He never took pride in honor; never explained away misunderstandings and never showed arrogance before admiration. Maybe, in the eyes of ordinary people, what he demonstrated could be called ——— great love.

A turning point: at 74 years old, he started on another road.

“Money is needed for students to go to school, money is needed for schools to maintain teachers and money is needed to rebuild old classrooms……”

While Bai’s food simply consisted of a fried bun with green Chinese onion and soy sauce along with a bowl of wontons, he began to aid education in 1987, when he was 74 years old. In that year, Bai came back to his hometown in Changxia County, Hebei Province as he prepared to retire and say goodbye to his pedicab. A group of children working in the field aroused his attention. Later, he learned that these children did not go to school because they lacked the financial resources rather than that they were naughty. The school was unable to collect tuition, and without money, it was unable to maintain the teachers and without teachers, how could the students learn? “Money is needed for students to go to school, money is needed for schools to maintain teachers and money is needed to rebuild old classrooms……” These thoughts keps the old man awake at night. He remembered that he, himself, left Tianjin because of poverty; and now decades later, his hometown was still poor. How could this next generation change their lives without education? Do we keep watching today’s children remain illiterates like their forefathers?

As soon as he returned to Tianjin, Bai went back to work. He rode his pedicab once more and donated his pension of 5000 RMB to aid education. At the age of 74 years old, he began pedaling another road.

Stubbornness: love, frustration was carried by the little pedicab.

“let him to do it If only he feels happy. If he does not like it, he will return to a comfortable life.”
“You are so old and you have sons and daughters, why don’t you stay at home to enjoy a relaxing life since you have worked so hard and not had an easy life until now.” His children try to persuade him.

“I have strength to do it, and it makes me happy to earn money for the students by driving my pedicab.” Bai was continued to be stubborn, even in his old age.

At that time, Bai went out in the early morning and wouldn’t return until after 11 pm, summer and winter. Daily, his children worried about him and waited for him at the door. They wouldn’t rest until they saw their old father return back. However, no matter how they tried to persuad him, the father turned a deaf ear to them. Sometimes, they tried to stop him, Bai persisted in his decision. In the end, the family gave up: “let him to do it If only he feels happy. If he does not like it, he will return to a comfortable life.” Therefore, by driving a pedicab, the old man earned money to make one donation after another to organizations like the Reward Fund for Teachers in Tianjin Primary and Middle High School, China Youth Development Fund and Children’s Palace in Hebei District, Tianjin.

A Record: Donating money earned with sweat and toil by driving a pedicab.

“The money donated by Grandpa Bai was full of sweat and toil, and we cannot let him down”

On September 1st, the government rewarded Bai Fangli the plaque of “Model Citizen of Supporting Education” in Daguangting Township, Chuangxian County, Hebei Province.

Later on, to increase his effort to assist students in need, Bai moved to a simple room near the Eastern Tianjin Railway Station. At that time, he waited for clients 24 hours a day, ate simple food and wore discarded second-hand clothes he found. His donations were sent to poor students in Hongguang Middle High School, Nankai University, Tianjin University.

When he first started donating funds, Bai did not ask for receipts. In his opinion, the receipts were useless if his donations were necessary. However, the beneficiary organizations recorded his donations clearly. “The money donated by Grandpa Bai was full of sweat and toil, and we can not let him down.” For this, the recipient organizations paid great importance to funds received from Bai. Besides recording the use of the donations, they also held a ceremony to distribute Bai’s donations. During the ceremony, Bai was able to see the students accept his donation and heard them report on their studies. This gave Bai great comfort, especially when he heard the school say: “you must not waste your grandpa Bai’s money, which was earned by driving pedicab. But if you study well and grow up healthily, please don’t worry about money, your grandpa will earn money for your tuition and other school fees.”

Bai drove his pedicab for 56 years and sponsored education for 18 years. During this time, the pedicab, his comrade in arms, accompanied him through rains and winds. Now, please take a rest when you tired and let the pedicab also take a rest for a while.

Frustration: Persistence, there are so many students waiting for help.

“he is a common person, he also has concerns and at times confusion. ”

Bai had adhered to his conviction for decades, and what is the power that supported him to overcome difficulties, misunderstandings and disagreements? Yang Junye, the head of Tianjin Association of self-employed individuals said that Bai was simple and noble person; he had no selfish reason for aiding education. Yang Junyu was 20 years younger than Bai, but he was his “old leader” and “friend of different generations”. On the long journey of supporting and aiding education, Bai would tell Yang what confused him. “Bai is a stubborn person; he will stick to his commitments once he has made decision. But he is also a common person; he also has concerns and at times confusion.”

In 1998, to follow municipal policy, Bai stopped his education support company, dismissed the workers, sold out the company’s properties. He then donated the 20,000 RMB to several schools. “One day, I heard a person calling me at the eastern railway station; I turned around and found it was a thin old man. After a moment, I recognized it was Bai. He was so thin that his shape had changed a lot. He told me: ‘the company is closed, but I am not willing to go. I had not eaten for several days and I can not support the students. I don’t want to live. ” What Bai said surprised Yang deeply. He took him to his home and consoled him: “it is right for you to aid the education and it is also right for you to follow the municipal policy. I support you, but you must open your mind. I will find reporters to report what you did and so everyone will learn from you. You should promise me that you will live to be 100 years old.”  Bai opened his mind and found the hope ——— there are so many students still waiting for help. He determined to be the model for others follow. How could he stop at that time?

Concern: Supporting Education, the road to be walked on.

“As I recovered, I will continue to support education.”

Every time when Bai delivered a donation to Hongguang Middle High School, the students would wished he would stay longer.

Reports about Bai’s deeds in supporting education were growing. He won many rewards and attended more and more gatherings…… however, since there was no aid for Education Company, his road to support education became more difficult. The company had closed, but he continued to stay in the simple room and accumulated his money cent by cent. As the cents cumulated to hundred RMB, he would wrap them in strings and deliver them to the schools. At that time, he did not know how long he manages to keep doing this. In 2000, he fell from his pedicab and injured his arm. However, he did not go to the hospital but instead continued to drive pedicab to earn money. In the end, his daughter persuaded and accompanied him to check out his arm at hospital. It turned out he wasn’t supposed to move his arm due to a bone fracture.

It was then impossible for him to drive the pedicab because of his physical condition ——— and he had to stop his work to aid education. However, he was missed the students and thought: “I will continue this work when I am healed.”

Eternity: Love will continue promoted by the model.

“you have led a hard life, and we should return the service to you since you are so old.”

His aid of education deeds attracted many students to visit him.

During his period of supporting education, Bai also made donations to Tianjian Resthome. When festivals or holidays came, he would send the resthome his hundred RMB donation to console the old people. In 2000, he at last said goodbye to his pedicab and went to the home for rest. The Tianjin Resthome arranged a high grade room for him and appointed special staff to take care of him. People said: “you have led a hard life, and now you are so old that we must return the service to you. It is also convenient for students to see you.”

The condition in resthome was good and the staff was very kind, but Bai found it difficult to have others serve him. He always telling the staff: “you take a rest, I can look after myself.” He thought that he was troubling others———“I have not done anything, and the government paid me attention and brought me here, now I trouble you to take care of me. I might as well go home.” So, with his persistence, he moved to the house of his daughter, Bai Jinfeng.

After going home, he did not stop working; he found reports about him in various media and arranged them into a handbook. When students came to see him, he would show it to them and educate them. He told them to study well and use their talents in future to support their country. His words were simple, but like seeds, they were planted in the hearts of the students. By now, many students supported by him were supporting other poor students.