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UPDATED: March 5, 2012 NO.10 MARCH 8, 2012
Forever Young Lei Feng
Our times need the spirit of an altruist hero more than ever
By Li Li

INSPIRATIONAL BUS: A bus decorated with Lei Feng's portrait and quotes in Zhengzhou, Henan Province (LI BO)

Wang Dajia, a 16-year-old middle school student from Changsha, capital of central China's Hunan Province, has supported charitable causes for nine years. After the catastrophic earthquake in Sichuan Province in May 2008, Wang decided to raise money for children in earthquake-affected areas. She published a book titled Growth Starting With Gratitude, a compilation of her compositions and paintings, and held charity book sales of her book in parks, streets and schools around Changsha on weekends. She sold more than 4,000 copies within three months and raised a total of 120,000 yuan ($19,000), which was donated to a primary school in Sichuan to build a classroom with audio-visual equipment and a library.

Wang attributed her Samaritan efforts to an enduring admiration of Lei Feng, a late soldier of the People's Liberation Army who has been a symbol of altruism in China since the 1960s. "To live is to serve the people. Live to make others happy," Lei wrote in his dairy, which recorded his deeds and experiences and was published posthumously.

Lei was killed in an accident on August 15, 1962. On March 5, 1963, late Chinese leader Mao Zedong called for all Chinese people to "learn from Comrade Lei Feng." March 5 has since been marked in China as Lei Feng's Day and this year marks its 49th anniversary.

Since then, a "living Lei Feng" has become the highest praise one can receive in China for going out of one's way to help others. Devoted employees are called "Lei Feng-like workers," and a team sharing a strong sense of team spirit is called a "Lei Feng team."

"I grew up listening to songs about Lei Feng without understanding the true meaning of 'Lei Feng spirit.' As I grew older and read the book Lei Feng's Diary, I started to ponder what made Lei a great man. Lei is a grateful and loving person who cares for others," Wang said.

In February, Today Morning Express in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province, conducted a survey of 1,000 local primary and middle school students and tested their knowledge of Lei. The survey revealed that 72.7 percent of students know Lei's deeds well and 93.8 percent said that people still need to follow his example. About 11.5 percent of the students regarded Lei as their favorite idol, after 20 percent who favor business leaders and 20 percent who admire entertainment stars, but ahead of the 10.7 percent who like writers and 10.3 percent who consider sports celebrities their idols.

An idol for all

I often ask myself, my friends,

what can I give you?

Although I do not have the answer,

I know deep in my heart that I really can give you my life,

my blood and a poem written with life and warm blood.

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