Thursday, April 22, 2010

All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes

Jinghong Mu was a molecular biologist before she died of cancer in 2008. She knew her time was coming when she gathered her family and relatives and announced she would leave the medical expenses account of $100,000 to a fund to support education of poor kids in her hometown, instead of spend it on her treatment. Jinghong passed away soon after.

Her parents look after her fund, and yesterday, they gave up the first round of scholarship to students of Linqing Second High School.

Jinghong's parents are retired professors of University of Sciences and Technology Beijing. Jinghong was born in Linqing, Shangdong, the hometown of her father, but grew up in Beijing. Jinghong had the best education a Chinese kid at her age could have, going schools in Beijing, then studying in Beijing University, PhD of Penn State, Post Doc tours in Rockefeller University and Southwestern Medical Center, still her heart was with the people under poverty in Linqing.

Jinghong had always tried to do something for Linqing. In the second year she came to the States, she came across a book titled 'All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes' in the College bookstore. She felt lucky for being able to take the journey of adventures in knowledge and cultures. Jinghong would want kids back in Linqing also felt the joy and be able to travel in the conquest of their own destinations. The best shoes would be, knowledge.

Now, a few lucky students in Linqing just received their traveling shoes, we hope they will go as long as their will and determination carry them.

A Voyager learns 'God's children need traveling shoes', Tuesday, June 26, 1990. The Daily Collegian online

A voyager learns 'God's children need traveling shoes'
One day, I opened a book in a bookstore. On the first page of the book there was only one line: God's children need traveling shoes. Immediately I was absorbed into the world of the author's beautiful imagination.

Traveling all around the world has always been my dream. When I was in college in China, with a group of friends, my favorite game was played on a map, and the dearest topic was traveling. My life there was filled with warm comfort and strong belief that one day I would do it. Two years ago, I left for the United States, and then Penn State University. Although I had been away from home before, I had never been on a plane, and certainly never traveled out of China. "This is my start," I wrote in my journal and hoped the whole world could hear this announcement.

"What is going to be?" I wove my fantasy with the little information that I had read and heard about the United States. The plane hurtled over the Golden Gate Bridge and the spreading forest in California, then headed to the Los Angeles International Airport located by the seashore. The plane was almost scraping the waves of the sea which is greyish blue in her sobriety. I felt the touch of this vast land and the freedom bestowed on it, which is geographically as old as the land I came from, yet sparkling fresh in her historical youth.

On the road from New York to State College, I met an old man, a Greek immigrant. Twenty years ago he came to the United States with a few pennies and many dreams. He looked at me and advised: "Be tough first, then you will have chances to be soft." This advice must have come out of his bitter struggle. Later whenever I was tangled with some uneasy situation, I would repeat this sentence, and it would give me some strength.

State College greeted me charmingly. The weather and flora here were similar to those of my hometown due to the similar latitude, which lessened my homesickness. The first semester was full of fascination. Like a moving feast, every day was full of new experiences and discoveries. There were just too many first times.

The first time I took a ride in a rainy night, the mountain road of Pennsylvania cradled me like a boat, and aroused my memories of the long travels by train in China. The first time I danced in a bar, the whirling light and the rhythm of music intoxicated me and carried me away. The first time I sat in front of the computer in Pattee library, all the famous names and book titles just flew from the screen to within my very touch. I was amazed when I was told that signing out 200 books was the maximum limit for one semester. 200 books -- Unbelievable!

As time elapsed, gradually the feast ended, and consciousness intruded. I grew unsatisfied about the simple happiness that I had felt. Like a person in the desert, I was thirsty, thirsty for books in my native language and talks with some spiritual meanings. The mystic story of China, the warm-hearted people of that land, and the colorful culture created by my people are all on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. But I am here in America. I felt I was floating in the air without touching solid ground; where did I belong?

After a time of confusion, I began to realize the similarities between our two cultures, and the people of our two lands. Trimming away the differences, the similarity of the peoples' ideas become striking. The same content could be expressed in different forms, the same thought could be carried in different languages. Every culture has many layers, therefore one has to find the layer that is warm and dear as a seedbed in which to grow.

Once more I live in the surroundings of friends, near or remote. They present their own views, and lead me to many new fields that I never set foot in before. While I receive their ideas, I give my ideas, values and culture, and sometimes the traditional Chinese food I prepare. The characteristics of my friends and the culture they represent fascinate me. An old black story teller and a musician, by singing a folk song, showed me the greatness that black people had rooted in their humility. A girl from the Ivory Coast told me her awareness of her role as one of the first generation of professional women that come from Africa to the West.

My album is the carrier of my traveling experience and has become my pride. I took pictures of whatever people and scenery struck me. Birds have been my favorite subjects, the eagles, the seagulls, the doves and the airplanes, those fortunate creatures who go according to their wills, their spreading wings are full of the desire for flight. I admire them.

For almost two years, State College has been my charming host, and will continue to be during the time I stay here. But one day I will leave, as I left my home in China. After staying in America for about two years, and realizing how strong the combination of will and determination can be, the dream of traveling all around the world seems more and more realistic. Standing in the Happy Valley shielded by the mountains, I can smell the ingredients of excitement from the other parts of the world in the wind blowing from outside. "What is going to be?" I wonder once more.

On the second page of my album there are two maps, one of the world and the other of America. The places that I have been are marked. On the first page I wrote: All God's children need traveling shoes.

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