(Personal-36)Article “WHAT IS THE TRUE MEANING OF LIFE”…for magazine Reader’s Digest Sept 1, 2018

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What is the true meaning of life? I wrote this article for Reader’s Digest…you can read it here! Steve, USA, September 1, 2018     stephenehling@hotmail.com   blog: https://getting2knowyou-china.com     WeChat   1962816801

I was visiting mainland China in March 2018 and a friend sent me a poster about Stephen Hawking, a world famous physicist, who had just died in England on March 18, 2018. It says, “However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.” Immediately Jake, a Chinese graduate student in cyber security, and I decided to design 20  (11×17) posters about my philosophy of life. I hope to use them when I go out to share my 7-year experiences in China as a visiting professor (2008-2014) with Americans because I am concerned, as a Chinese with roots in China and a Chinese American, that many Americans are disinterested in what is going on in modern China. And these are the words on one very important poster:  “What is Life? It is what I want it to be. Do what I have to do to get where I want to be, my way.”

I received an invitation to be a visiting professor to teach journalism in Xiamen University in 2008 (the year of the Beijing Olympics) , a school not far from where my grandfather used to live and buried. Grandpa migrated with his growing family to Malaya in 1903 to escape poverty, social unrest and starvation because the Malayan government under the British protectorate at the time, had sent an American Methodist missionary who could speak the dialects of the “poorest of the poor” to come to Malaya to grow rice.

I was lucky to attend a “mission school” in Malaya (now Malaysia) because they were started by the American Methodist Mission in America.

I was very lucky to work with a dean in Xiamen University TKK College, located in the same campus of Xiamen University. She would use biblical stories to teach English and writing in her classes. And I felt strongly I was a modern missionary sent by God to teach in China. To use the language of Steve Jobs, I started to connect the dots of why I was in China? I was more than a teacher to my many students who were hungry for knowledge…I have a mission to open the eyes of my students to the values we Americans hold dear to our lives and pursuits of happiness, liberty and justice for all God’s creatures. I became the Host of a Talk Show for 7 years, introducing my students to voices from the west and an opportunity to be able to share their thoughts and thinking during the show. My desire was to give my students the rare opportunity to express their thoughts without fear of punishment by their classroom Chinese professors.

When my dean told me personally the school did not need my money to establish a scholarship fund (in USA, we have foundations and scholarships, not normal in China), I realized why I was sent by God to China…to offer financial assistance to students who wanted to pursue advanced education in China or overseas.  Chen Chao is now pursuing his phd in Economics at Brown. Thomas Xiang Biao is doing his phd in Mechanical Engineering in Polytechnic University in Hong Kong, Jady Zhou is doing his phd in HIV Research at Hamamatsu University School of Medicine, Japan, and Michael Jia is pursuing studies at Xi’an Jiao Tong University, Department of Medicine, to become an urologist. Thomas Xiang Biao got a prosthetic leg because I wanted him to walk like a normal young man in China. I took a young man to a glass shop so he could improve his vision in class. A simple thank you note from him: “Steve, thank you for the eye glasses, now I could see the powerpoint on the screen!”

And with the  Internet and WeChat (one billion users across the world), I work daily with students from China now studying in Australia, England and Canada and USA because they have the desire to continue to improve their spoken and written English. I want them to be bilingual so they can contribute both to China and to the west!

That is my legacy in China…a simple desire to better the lives of those close and dear to me. And now I am preparing to go out to talk about China using my new book (6th) THIS IS CHINA because China, whether we like it or not, will eventually take over the world as predicted by eminent economists and IMF! Sooner or later…thank President Clinton for encouraging China to be a member of the WTO since 2001. The rest is history.

Stephen Ling, author and college professor, who spent 7 years as a visiting professor in China.

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