by Dr. Matthew Sleeth
I came across an inspiring story the other day. It’s an article about two men in the Sunzhuang Township in Northern China planting trees. “So?” you say. “What’s the big deal about planting trees?” The big deal is that both of them are disabled. One is completely blind, and the other is missing both of his arms. Think about that for a minute. No arms to hold on with and no eyes to see and yet they are making a positive difference in the world. Over the past decade, they have planted 10,000 trees.
Why? I’ve included a link to the story, and you can read what they say. The article doesn’t tell us their faith. Are they Christians, Buddhists, or just men trying to help? We don’t know. We do know that both of them need a purpose in life. So they are planting trees. Tree planting is really something we do for the next generation. It’s something we do for our children…and our great, great grandchildren.
A week ago, we had a missionary family of five over for Friday night dinner. They were visiting us from their home in China, a city south of where these trees are being planted. Their city is similar in size (area-wise) to where we live–Lexington, Kentucky–but instead of 300,000 residents they have 30 million. When we said grace, I asked everyone at the table to add what they are thankful for. Truth be told, I was shamelessly trying to learn what was on the children’s hearts. Their guileless gratitude gave me a little more understanding why Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is populated by children.
Later in the evening, their daughter sang a song for us (in Chinese), and we adults talked about life in their city. One of the big challenges of living in China today is trees–or the lack thereof. China has air that you can see before you breathe it. The air quality index this minute in Lexington is 46. In my old hometown in Maine it is 9, and in their city in China it is 172. To put that in context, 0-50 air quality index is considered good; 50-100 is moderate; and everything over 100 is designated unhealthy. In many Chinese cities, it frequently goes over 250 (very unhealthy/hazardous). Masks must routinely be worn when going out of doors. The cause of the polluted air in China is too much human industry, and too few trees.
This situation is not unique to China. All over the globe, the lack of trees and the overabundance of human industry is resulting in changes to the air we breathe. Which is the reason that a blind man and a man without arms planting trees is news. They are part of the solution.
The origin of the word “inspiring” is “to breathe into.” May the Lord bless these men, and may He inspire us to plant trees and to seed the earth with the Gospel. If a man without arms and his friend who is blind can work to make the world better, what’s your excuse?