I have often been asked, “why animals?” It seems that some assume that those caring for animals care “only” for animals. This is not the case with many of the wonderful people that I have met over the years. In fact, most of the compassionate people that I meet do not restrict their compassion to only one direction. I have met so many people who are working to save animals as well as helping people and vice versa. My answer is always that there is no limit to compassion. My involvement in helping animals has given me the confidence to broaden my involvement in helping in general. Compassion does not have to be bound to only one cause or one direction. Giving is contagious and the more one gives the more one’s heart will grow, making room for only more giving.
I came across a perfect example of a human being that knows no limits to compassion in Nanning, China. As a young man Mr. Zeng was an artist and making a living through painting traditional Chinese art. He had already established himself as a talented and successful painter as a teenager, but he was driven to do more and to use his talents as an artist to help others.
In China those with disabilities are often viewed as unable citizens and are removed from society and institutionalized. The disabled are usually removed from any formal education, normal society and their families.
At the age of 20 Mr. Zeng met a blind man that surprised him with his knowledge and capability to distinguish colours by touch and temperature alone. The fact that the blind find other ways to see was a new concept for him and sent Mr. Zeng onto a new path. He set out on a crusade to show the world the capabilities of the disabled. He decided to use his skills to teach the disabled how to paint. He entered hospitals and institutions that housed the disabled and continued to learn just how wrong stereotypes placed upon the disabled were. He found creative souls that were yearning to learn and to express themselves.
In his thirties Mr. Zeng was inside an orphanage for disabled children teaching them art. A young deaf girl named, Yujun, particularly moved his heart. She had no family and no hope for a future life outside of an institution. She loved art and showed incredible talent under Mr. Zeng’s guidance. Within a short time Mr. Zeng adopted young Yujun as his daughter who today shares the joy that Mr. Zeng receives by helping others.
Today at the age of 54 Mr. Zeng continues to teach art to the disabled as well as teaching others how to do the same. At a university in Nanning he teaches a course on special education. He teaches his students the skills that they need to communicate with the disabled as well teaching them to become respectful and compassionate teachers themselves.
While having dinner with Mr. Zeng it didn’t surprise me to learn that he is a vegetarian. He told me a story of himself as a young boy who was forced to witness a chicken being killed for his next meal. Mr. Zeng said that it broke his heart to watch an innocent animal loose its whole life for him and he has refused to eat animals ever since. I took the opportunity to explain the animal cruelties that are also involved in egg and milk production. Mr. Zeng had never heard of “veganism” and was unaware of the suffering involved in creating these animal products for our consumption. Mr. Zeng simply replied, “I too shall try this lifestyle”.
My days spent with Mr. Zeng were inspirational. He is an example of a compassionate heart that knows no boundaries. His bright smile and positive energy makes all of those around him want to be and to do better. The wonderful Mr. Zeng has many more plans for his future and intends to continue caring and sharing as far and wide as he can, in every direction.