Jian Feng was carrying heavy red bricks and his hands were becoming weaker and sweatier. That was the sign that he should have now the long-awaited break and eat some noodles. The sun was already very high on the horizon and he regretted that he had not brought along his old straw hat…If only he could carry more and faster, the wall could be finished in his lifetime – he was hoping for that… What was giving him the strength to continue was the thought about his son Xiao Qiang and the strong sense of duty.
This feeling of commitment was permeating also other workers while they were working close to him and mechanically, however with great effort, cutting the white stone. Jian Feng was very hungry but even thirstier so sipping the noodle soup was the best thing he could think of at the time. He sat down and started eating but soon directed his attention to the nearby banner attached to a high pole and now strongly flapping in the wind. As he was contemplating the words written on it – ‘The work of your hands forms the future of your family and – of China’ – and thinking about the emperor’s idea to build the huge wall to protect the nation from invaders, he spotted Xiao running towards him with his hat. ‘Did the boy understand the endeavour behind this big task of wall building?’ – his father was wondering. Did he know that it was done by generations for future generations? Maybe he did, maybe he did not…But he continued his father tasks in the future. The great commitment has been transforming into the Great Wall.
“A civilization is built on what is required of men, not on that which is provided for them.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
Xue Mei remembered the governor of the province reading the emperor’s speech from the scroll like it was yesterday. The sentences were giving her a lot of hope and energy to continue her work: ‘The immense greenery of land, vast fields full of rice and abundance of food. Prosperity will be brought to your families and they will thrive, like the transport and trade linking the North and South of Chinese Empire.’ The words were still ringing in her ears…she felt a surge of inspiration and paused for a while, removing the sweat and dust form her forehead. Although she was a tiny woman, she was carrying heavy buckets of dark mud to help deepen the canal more and more. It was only the beginning of the works but she was guided by Lao Tzu’s wisdom who stated that: ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step’. The spirit of solidarity and common effort seemed to be present among all the workers. Also everyone in her family was contributing to make the idea come true – her husband was digging the riverbed and the elders stayed at home to take care of their children. They were all taking the smalls steps that one day would lead to the completion of what will be known in the future as the Grand Canal.
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
Neither Jian Feng nor Xue Mei have ever imagined how far the work of their hands, their sweat and sincere effort would bring China…The humble spirit that moves nations, inspiration that surpasses borders and reaches even…space. Sometimes sky is the limit!
As the day at the International Space Station was coming to an end, Steve looked out on Earth through the small window before going to rest. It has been a long day, his first 24 hours in space…Suddenly, he shouted surprised in the direction of his colleague: ‘Frank, have you seen it?!’ Frank, who was a senior astronaut, replied calmly: ‘Well, I have seen pretty much everything here. It’s my fifth time at the Space Station!’ ‘No, not at the Station, I mean – on Earth’ – responded excited Steve. Frank approached his colleague; they were now standing shoulder next to shoulder and looking down on Earth – what was looming there very far away was a narrow thread going from the East to the West and from the South to North on the territory of China. As impressive as it was for the European astronauts, as incredible it would be for Jian Feng and Xue Mei to imagine how far their spirit – driving force behind their work – may reach…to be visible from space. Spirit unlimited!