Thursday, March 4, 2010
Still Learning from Lei Feng... Sort of
Originally Lei Zhengxing, from Wangcheng, Hunan Province, Lei died at the tender age of 22 when he was directing a truck as it backed up. A pole struck him on the head. He soon became a role model known for his unswerving devotion to the Chinese Communist Party
There is a tradition of school children taught to do good deeds and keep a "Lei Feng Diary", as his was published after his death and became a best seller.
These days there are examples of kids donating their allowance to help pay for a classmate's medical bills, or learning how to douse fires from firemen.
There are debates about whether learning from Lei Feng needs to be updated with the times, a tacit admission that communism with Chinese characteristics isn't as ardently followed these days as it was 60 years earlier.
The interesting thing is that back in the day, the Chinese thought everyone knew who Lei Feng was. As in the whole world.
However, most of us foreigners seemed to have missed out on learning about this brave man and an American is trying to rectify the situation.
Leif Rogers, 38, who is a customer service manager in a bank in Liaoning Province has not only raised money for a leukemia-stricken girl and donated books and money to an orphanage, but also translated Lei Feng's diary into English.
He did that in 2007 and today continues to hand out his translation to school kids so they won't forget Lei Feng.
"Whenever a young person stops by my office, I give them a copy of 'The Diaries of Lei Feng' to read," he said.
Yesterday Rogers distributed copies to students at Xiaodong No. 2 primary school in Shenyang, where they were also encouraged to write their own "Lei Feng Diary."
However, Zhao Lixin, the headmaster of the school confessed that it was sometimes difficult to teach children the true spirit of Lei Feng.
"They don't even understand why Lei Feng mended his torn socks again and again. They would just tell you to get a new pair," she said.