"Dear students, those who are willing to engage in the work of an NGO after graduation, please raise your hands." After asking, I looked around the classroom. Not a single hand was raised. Seeing this, I asked a slightly milder question. "Students who have any brief intention to join an NGO after graduation, please raise your hands."Again, there was an empty show of hands. However, I did not feel embarrassed at all. I asked one last question that made all the students reflect upon themselves. "Since you have never thought about doing so and you are not willing to do it, why do you come to school every day to attend these courses?"
It was a Wednesday afternoon and I was in a class open to the first year postgraduates at a university. These students came from all different kinds of majors, including ideology and politics, Chinese and foreign culture, international relations and so on. The course I was invited to start was The Operation and Management of Contemporary NGOs: Opportunities and Challenges. I prepared for this course with great care. I was not the teacher but only the guest, thus I paid more attention to the classroom interaction. The students responded to my questions in a very roundabout way. For them, their priority was to work for the government, or something like that. Only one or two students responded a bit positively.
I told my students that there are some people these days that are superficial and have a skewed perspective. They refuse to do things that do not benefit themselves. It is a slave like way of thinking, as they do not consider themselves the master of their environment, nor do they feel the need to take responsibility for the society.
On the other hand, there are some people who make short-term sacrifices for long-term interests and put their lives into the career of helping others. They are free to do whatever they please, but they choose this path not for the money, but for righteousness. I spoke to the students about our partner, Transparent Fish Fund, where the staff members are outstanding young people who graduated from good universities at home and abroad. Further more, I explained that their salaries are not high, but they are willing to devote themselves to tasks that are irrelevant to their majors for a good cause.
We often hear stories about those Chinese who move to North America and lead a middle-class life, but find it difficult to enter the Western mainstream society. Why?
Some say it is because the Chinese have no money abroad, thus they were unable to enter the mainstream society. Wrong! There are numerous Chinese people who purchase from the Louis Vuitton retail stores and splurge on luxury houses and flashy cars, aren't there? However, they could not enter the mainstream society. It was not because of their Zhejiang accents, but mostly because their fathers were named Mr. Li Gang. (Reference to 2010 Li Gang incident)
Some said foreigners discriminate against Chinese, that whites discriminate against those with “yellow” skin. Wrong! Firstly, the United States is not entirely a white country, as a Negro was elected as president. Secondly, racial discrimination is a serious crime in a western country, and the degree of it is now lower than that of geographical discrimination in China.
Why is it that in Southeast Asia, Central Asia and Africa (where there are no Caucasians), most wealth is concentrated in the hands of rich Chinese, but the lower-class Chinese were always the ones who were killed, robbed and whose shops were burnt first when suffering from war and coup?
Why are Chinese still suffering from discrimination and hatred? Because they are unable to enter the mainstream society.
So what is mainstream society? To my understanding, the society is composed of groups of people who are willing to make contributions, whether individual contribution or contribution as a group/organization, to promote the life changes of residence for other ethnic groups, decrease inequality, eliminate disease and misery caused by various social problems.
People enter the mainstream society naturally. Whether they are rich or poor, born privileged or unknown, they are deemed that devoting himself/herself in fulfilling what others need is their responsibility. The mainstream society is the core to changing the world and the cradle to cultivate great leaders.
My dear students, why is it so difficult for you to raise your hands? Because the lust for a scholarship, a postgraduate degree, a good job after graduation, or immediate benefit ? I can tell you that all of you would get these things naturally at the age of 40, as you have received a high level of education, and then what would you want? Wouldn't you feel empty?
I told my students that working for an NGO is worthy of respect. First of all, a well-educated person is willing to choose a job that does not offer a high salary, because it suggests that they are a free and independent person. Secondly, people working for NGOs under the certain circumstance that they do not hold power or wealth, are required to have a wide vision, broad knowledge structure, a good grasp on public relations, reliable finance skills and strong leadership and mobilization ability, not to mention a favorable personality, a good public image, and a self-learning ability, since they needed to lead a group of volunteers that do not receive stipend to cooperate with one another. Most importantly, these people are part of the mainstream society. What they do is not only help the poor and weak, but they also bring different values to the world and influence the well development of public policy. In other words, they are changing the imperfect world.
Two classes flashed by in the blink of an eye. I now know the reason why some famous business leaders turned to engaging in social responsibility campaigns after attaining the wealth and status that are pursued by young students. Maybe it was because they understood the quote: "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" We as humans, are created to live for a meaning.
-Translated by volunteer Becky Wuong, Edited by intern Kaitlyn Cheung
Story link: www.toumingyu.org/yuanyi/story/6269/
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