THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS


H
ow can I make a difference?

by Qin Zhi Lau
Developing Virtue Secondary High School, Grade 12

As we venture further into a new millennium, we begin to realize and comprehend the numerous problems facing our fragile world. The day's newspaper is often filled with stories of murders, kidnappings, attacks, and bombings, and fears of global warming and natural calamities abound. Destructive and harmful practices like slash-and burn deforestation and overfishing continue, putting great stress on the precious resources of our fragile planet. Conflicts occur in places throughout the globe, leading to the deaths of many ten of thousands of innocent men, women and children. It is at times like these that can make a mere sixteen-year-old feel helpless, insignificant, and lost. How can I make positive changes in a world that is becoming increasingly negative?

An ancient Chinese philosophical text with quotes by the sage Confucius, the Great Learning, says:

"The ancients who wished to illustrate illustrious virtue throughout the kingdom, first ordered well their own States.
Wishing to order well their States, they first regulated their families.
Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their persons.
Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first rectified their hearts."

Therefore, in order to make great changes in the world, I must first begin by changing myself. Mahatma Gandhi said: "Be the change you wish to see in the world." After changing myself, then greater changes can affect the community, the nation, and eventually, the world.

So, how can I help myself and my family?

Everyone in this world is either a parent or a child, and together we form the basic unit of human organization. In a family, harmony is essential - between the mother and father, between the parents and the children, and between the siblings. Without harmony and peace, a family would not be what it is - close-knit, caring, and protective. However, modern trends in society today have changed our families greatly - parents have to work and thus have no time to look after their children. Divorces and separations tear families apart and bring grief and misery to all members.

Therefore as a child, it is my duty to maintain that harmony in my very own family. When my parents remonstrate me for a transgression, I will try to keep silent and resist my teenage impulse to argue. Should I have time, I will help out with all the necessary chores needed to be completed in my house - like mowing the lawn, cleaning up the house, etc. Mundane as those tasks may seem, my parents will feel much relieved if I am able to do them, giving them more time to "relax" and do things that they want to do. In turn, they would be less stressed out and worried, and be more cheerful and happy.

And what about the beloved city that I live in?

Our communities in America (including Ukiah) face numerous problems as well - gangs prowl our city's streets, causing strife and violence wherever they go. The elderly are abandoned and left in convalescent homes with no one to visit them - not even their own children. Illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin are sold, purchased and used on the street, allowing virulent diseases like HIV to run rampant.

In order to counter this, I plan to volunteer at the local Ukiah Library this summer. I've always felt that a library is a sort of refuge from the hectic, busy world outside. In a library as a young kid (that would be about eight years ago), I was able to immerse myself in the immense knowledge of the human race -- I could read about anything and everything. Now I'm old enough to work, and by volunteering at the library, I hope to be able to bring the joy of learning and knowledge to other teenagers -- hopefully, they will then be able to stay away from pointless violence and dangers.

Unfortunately, in today's society, we don't really give our senior citizens the credit they deserve. Could we enjoy the blessings we have and comfortable lifestyle we live today without them? In order to repay them, I joined the Community Service Club at my school - where like-minded students go out to convalescent homes to serenade and entertain lonely elders. I play my Chinese dulcimer (called the yangqin) there and though I don't really play that well, it certainly alleviates the old folks' boredom.

We have just one planet - Earth - and her resources are rapidly being depleted. Freshwater, wood, metal ores, oil, and so on are becoming increasingly scarce - and our society's voluminous consumption of them is notorious. How can I help to "save the Earth"?

An old saying goes: "Do not refrain from doing something good though the deed is small." Instead of dumping even the smallest scraps of paper in the trash, I take them to the recycle bin outside and deposit it there. It may not seem like much, but research shows that one ton of recycled paper could save 17 pulpwood trees! This is extremely important considering that a full 37 percent of recyclable paper is dumped into landfills each month and left to rot. Small things that I do, like wearing sweaters instead of turning on the heater full-blast and turning off the lights in an unoccupied room can have far-reaching effects when done over long periods of time.

In conclusion, it is possible for a mere teenager to bring about changes in the world around us - and I plan to do so. Slowly and gradually, I hope that anything I do myself can spread in an ever-widening circle of compassion and help.

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