“Watching her grow and become stronger gave us such happiness and I realized I had a real love of caring for children,” said Xiaoying.(1)
Lou Xiaoying is a Chinese woman living in the rural countryside in Eastern Zhejiang province. Her home is a humble hovel, its small yard littered with debris and recyclables. A little boy of 7 plays in the yard. Lou lived in that home with her husband Lin until he passed away 20 years ago.
All their working lives, Lou and her husband made a living scavenging the village trash for recyclables. It was a tough, backbreaking way of life trudging through the streets and sifting through other people’s often filthy and smelly discards.
Over the years, they picked up 30 abandoned babies from the trash heap. Of the 30 foundlings they saved, the couple kept 4 babies to raise themselves and the rest, they gave away to friends and relatives. They have one biological child, a woman, who is now past 50 years old. When Lou was 82 and already a widow, she saved one more baby from the trash.
She said, “Even though I was already getting old I could not simply ignore the baby and leave him to die in the trash. He looked so sweet and so needy. I had to take him home with me … My older children all help look after Zhang Qilin … I named him after the Chinese word for rare and precious.”(2)
Since 1978, the Chinese communist government has enforced, with few exceptions, its one-child policy in its draconian efforts to curb population growth and ease the strain on its resources. Families are prevented from having more than one child under pain of penalty. Those who abide by the rule are given bonuses and incentives. Boys are preferred in Chinese culture so couples who want a son feel compelled to throw away infant girls. It is claimed that the policy prevented the birth of 400 million babies.(2)
Certain rural parts of the country allow couples to have a second child if the first born is a girl but many parents feel pressured to produce an heir and end up abandoning the females. If the second child is also a girl, no more children are allowed. It is extremely rare to find a family that has two sons.(3)
Infanticide of ‘guilt children’ is still a problem in rural areas but it is rare in cities, where children are usually abandoned but not killed.(3)
“…I realized if we had strength enough to collect garbage how could we not recycle something as important as human lives?” says, Lou Xiaoying
In 2012, one of Lou’s adopted daughters, 33-year-old Zhang Juju, said that despite her mother’s extreme poverty, she always tried to provide the best life possible for the children she rescued.(4)
“I don’t have many days left [but] what I want to see most of all is for…[7-year-old Qiling] to go to school. That way, even after I am gone, there will be no regrets left in my life,” she told Xinhua (Chinese state-run news agency) from her hospital bed.(4) Lou was suffering from kidney failure. Despite pain and impending death, Lou looked beautiful in repose. Her eyes sparkled with joy. A calm peacefulness etched in her face. In 2012, she was 88 years old.(2)
In the local community, she is well known and well respected for her work with the abandoned babies. She is a local hero. Someone said of her, “She is shaming to governments, schools and people who stand by and do nothing. She has no money or power but she saved children from death or worse.”(3)
“This is the last wish of [Lou] and we must help her achieve it,” Jinhua City Primary School’s principal Zhang Fangxiao, who said he was extremely moved by Lou’s story, told 19lou.com.(4)
Today, China may have relaxed that social engineering policy for the time being, perhaps realizing the inadvertent negative effects on their society and culture over the long term.(2)
Money goes a distance; a heart full of compassion and a will to act finds paths where there are none!
There are some stories that need to be told again and again and this is one of them. There are some heroes who live amongst us. Those few who do not need a cape but fly with the power of a heart of gold.
I don’t know if Lou is alive today or has left for a better place but would love to get some news about her. Ping me if anyone has any news of Lou Xiaoying.
3. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2181017/Lou-Xiaoying-Story-Chinese-woman-saved-30-abandoned-babies-dumped-street-trash.html + Feature image