慈濟傳播人文志業基金會
Words from Dharma Master Cheng Yen—Protect the Earth With Wisdom

There is a Buddhist story about a little sparrow that lived in the forest. One day, a fire started in the forest. Instead of fleeing in panic, the bird flew to the sea, dipped its wings into the water, flew back to the forest, and dropped the water into the blaze. The little sparrow flew back and forth, doing what he could to extinguish the fire. He knew he didn’t have much power—his wings were small, and the fire was large. But he kept up his efforts because he knew many animals were still trapped in the forest.

This little bird can teach us an important lesson about compassion. We share this world with many other people and living things, and all our lives are intertwined. When a disaster hits, we should all do our best to help those affected, no matter how big or small our individual contributions may be.

In the news, we have seen huge crop losses caused by swarms of locusts, devastating wildfires, and severe flooding. China, for example, was hit hard by floods this year. Duchang in Jiangxi Province and Leshan in Sichuan Province were among the areas badly inundated. I’m very thankful to our volunteers in China. They quickly mobilized to assess the damage and distribute aid.

Volunteers carried out most of the distributions for flood victims in the summer. It was so hot some volunteers almost had heat strokes, but they kept on working, taking only brief breaks to recuperate. They knew that recipients were enduring high heat to receive their supplies, and they didn’t want to make them wait. An elderly villager named Huang couldn’t bear to see the volunteers suffering under the scorching sun while they distributed aid, so she walked home to fetch a big umbrella. She held it over some volunteers to protect them from the sun.

Tzu Chi volunteers from Taiwan had visited some of the flooded areas over 20 years ago and distributed winter jackets and blankets. During the relief mission this time, our volunteers in China saw that some villagers had kept those winter jackets and blankets that Tzu Chi gave them over 20 years ago in good condition. The villagers said that they wanted to pass the jackets and blankets down to their children as a reminder that volunteers from Taiwan once traveled all the way from their island to help them after a massive disaster years before.

Love is showing care and consideration for others. The warmth people show when they are willing to work hard to help others is truly moving and uplifting. The same is true when those being helped show sincere gratitude for what they have been given. Our world will be a very beautiful place if such warmth abounds.

When a disaster hits, we must do our best to help those affected. At the same time, we must take to heart the lessons it brings. It’s high time we stopped exploiting the Earth without restraint in pursuit of our own pleasures and comforts. We should instead use our wisdom to protect it. That’s how we can ease climate change and reduce natural disasters.

Our world is in a critical state, and we all need to safeguard it with love. Our recycling volunteers have set a good example in this respect. Many of them are getting on in years, but instead of seeking a life of comfort, they took up recycling to do the Earth a good turn. They don’t mind the filth and smell that sometimes come with that work; instead they’re happy they can still contribute at their age to the welfare of the world. It’s hard to understand their joy unless you join them and personally experience what they’ve experienced.

We need more people to take up recycling work like these volunteers. Most of them are older, so we especially need younger people to join and accept the baton of environmental responsibility. The future belongs to the younger generation. We need to raise their environmental awareness and inspire them to action.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Tzu Chi’s recycling work. I’m truly thankful to all our volunteers for their contributions. Many of them not only take part in the work, but try to inspire others to join them by sharing the joy that comes from doing such work and the significance of the cause. They are like candles passing their flame to ever more candles. They are helping to light up society. If we can all do our best to benefit the world like they do, we will greet a future full of hope.

Many Tzu Chi recycling volunteers are older people. Dharma Master Cheng Yen encourages more younger people to join in to help protect the environment. Huang Xiao-zhe

 

November 2020