rising from the dust

Let me ask you a question: “In times of crisis brought on by natural disasters, what human tendency reveals itself most often?”

A) The tendency to plunder like pirates, steal food from starving children, and sink to the lowest form of respectability possible

B) Service and goodwill and love for all mankind

Your answer?

In a geology class I had a few semesters ago, that question was on one of my tests. I chose B) Love. I got it wrong.

Apparently, when something bad happens in the world, it’s more likely that people will lose all semblance of humanity and turn into a dreg of society rather than work together to make things better.

This disturbed me. Perhaps because of where I live, I don’t realize exactly how terrible conditions can become in such a situation. I always hear about relief efforts, but apparently very little about the places we are relieving.

I admit, I felt a bit downcast about the condition of the human race. If we can’t help each other with basic survival needs, then what hope is there in any other situation?

On May 12, 2008, a massive (magnitude 8.0) earthquake shook the core of China. Dubbed the Sichuan earthquake, it resulted in the deaths of 70,000 people and condemned 4.8 million to homelessness (info and links here).

No words can capture the tragedy of this event, so I won’t attempt. However, a small story caught my eye. Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, devoted a page to Jiang Xiaojuan, a policewoman whom they named a hero.

The Hero

Three Chinese mothers, traumatized by the event, stopped giving milk. Five other mothers were killed in the earthquake, and the orphanage in which their babies were placed had no powered milk. Xiaojuan, a 29-year-old who had recently given birth, breastfed those eight babies until they were placed in better conditions, saving their lives.

It’s because of people like her that I chose answer ‘B’ on my test. My hope is that we’ll reach a point when I can select that answer and get it right.


Xiaojuan has since been awarded the titles of “hero and model police officer,” “excellent member of the Communist Party,” and became the vice commissar of the Communist Party of China Committee of the Jiangyou Public Security Bureau.

This ignited debate. Some said that public office shouldn’t be used to promote a moral model. She should have been promoted based on merit and capabilities rather than good deeds.

Others supported the decision, saying that Xiaojuan’s actions showed that she was a good public servant.


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