Jackie Chan was at my school in Bangkok today. He addressed 300 students and teachers in the theatre and 100 more (myself included) who watched him on a projection screen set up in the library.
Chan is on a mission to promote peace as part of the third ASEAN event series of Bridges – Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace facilitated by the International Peace Foundation.
Unlike most speakers, Jackie spoke for just ten minutes and then took questions for fifty; this format led to some wonderful story-telling. He told the audience a story about a man who lived in a remote region of China. This area is so mountainous, Jackie said, that you could shout out “Hello. How are you?” to your neighbour who lives on the next mountain peak but if you want to go to his house – to have dinner with him – it will take five days to get there. The man in the story had two children and he wanted them to have a good education. He wanted this so badly that he walked them to school each day – a journey that took five hours. The father waited while his children attended class for several hours and then the three of them walked the five hours back home. The father was happy to do it but, little by little, his farm began to fail because he didn’t have enough time to tend the land properly. The family made the difficult decision to take the children out of school for a year; they would work on the farm and sell firewood at the base of the mountain (for 20 US cents a day) while the father went to the nearest big city to find work. They said it was temporary. The father spent his savings to reach the city only to find that he could not find a job as he did not speak Cantonese. The father ended up begging on the streets for a number of weeks before he began walking home. It took him three months to get there. When Jackie heard this story, he built a number of schools in this region. The family’s walk to school now takes just two hours.
I am embarrassed to say that I didn’t realize until today that Jackie Chan was a great humanitarian. You can learn more about The Jackie Chan Charitable Foundation and the Dragon’s Heart Foundation here.
When asked what high school students could do to help achieve world peace, Jackie responded that they should do exactly what they are doing now… they should continue to get an excellent education, work hard and do their very best. He advised them to seek to learn more and more. Later, when they have achieved some success in the world, they should spend some of their resources – time and money – making a difference in the lives of others.
He also encouraged us to help just one person. One person at a time… the way he does.