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Lei Feng spirit never out of date

By Zhu Yuan  (China Daily)

10:58, March 06, 2013

An exhibition, which opened on Monday at Beijing World Art Museum, showcases photos and audio material featuring Lei Feng. The young Chinese soldier, who died in 1962, is known for selflessly helping the needy. (China Daily/Wang Jing)

It is 50 years since Mao Zedong introduced the slogan "Learn from Lei Feng", and it has been natural for people to depoliticize what Lei Feng's spirit was supposed to convey as the country has undergone the change from a planned economy to a socialist market economy.

Do we still need to learn from Lei Feng's example? Is there any change in people's understanding of this model good Samaritan?

What we need to realize is that there is a convergence between what Lei Feng's spirit conveys and the code of conduct a citizen is supposed to observe. Just as there is a relationship between the essence of the Lei Feng spirit and what ancient Chinese thinkers said is necessary for a man of moral integrity.

The Chinese sage Mencius said, "take care of other elderly the way you do your parents, look after other children the way you do your own". Likewise "the elderly get the care they need, young people have proper work to do, children get what they need for their healthy development, and all the needy have the care they are entitled to" in Confucius' ideal society.

It is obvious that the essence of the Lei Feng spirit is the humanitarian side of what the ancient Chinese required of a man of integrity.

Whatever one does should never be at the expense of another, extending a helping hand to the needy and helping others are expected in a civilized society. To be a good citizen is the prerequisite for learning from Lei Feng.

Without giving enough thought to the cultivation of citizens' civic awareness, learning from Lei Feng will not be meaningful. Someone who knows nothing about how to be a civilized citizen can never be expected to learn from the example of Lei Feng, who is said to have always known when to offer a helping hand to those in need.

A single tree does not make a forest. Everyone needs the concern and help from others, no matter how developed a society becomes. In turn, he or she has to give in order to receive.

Despite some instances of people not going to the aid of elderly people that have had an accident because they fear they will be accused of being the cause of the accident, there has never been a lack of heroic or charitable deeds performed by ordinary people.

A pregnant woman jumped into a pond to rescue a two-year-old girl. A woman rushed to catch a baby that had fallen from the window of a high-rise apartment. Many people bought noodles at a restaurant in Zhengzhou in order to help the restaurant owner during a difficult time. The list goes on.

The overlauding of some extreme cases will never overshadow the fact that many people extend a helping hand if they can.

However, with an increasing number of people becoming too concerned with money and materialistic gains to spare a thought for others, the promotion of the Lei Feng spirit may function as a reminder that the pursuit of materialistic gains alone is not enough in life. A harmonious society is the foundation for a happy life and the building of such a society needs everyone's contribution.

So a reminder that one can't just stand on the sidelines as an onlooker is always relevant.

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