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Helping others stay steady for 20 years

China Daily | Updated: 2017-03-01 07:09

75-year-old man offers over 10,000 walking sticks to those in need

TAIYUAN - Snow last week across North China might have sent some pedestrians stumbling, but in Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi province, help was at hand to keep the unsteady on their feet.

A photograph that went viral on social media showed a bundle of wooden walking sticks placed outside a bus station in the city's downtown. It had a note attached, which read: "Elderly people may have difficulty walking in wind and snow. These walking sticks could help you. Take one if you need one. They are free."

The sticks were made by 75-year-old Bian Yinliang, who estimates that he has made more than 10,000 walking sticks during the past 20 years, giving them away to those in need.

"I am happy to see someone walk away with one of my sticks," said the retired carpenter, who started making walking sticks in 1998, inspired by a neighbor.

Helping others stay steady for 20 years

"Knowing my previous occupation, he asked if I could make a walking stick for him. So I did," he said.

On receiving the gift, the neighbor marveled at Bian's skill. "I had no idea that my craft could help others in this way. So I made more."

To save on costs, Bian took branches cut from trees and timber he found while out walking. As time went on, his neighbors also started to help find materials for him.

At first, whenever he finished a stick, he would give it to someone he met in the neighborhood, but this did not always work out so well.

"There was an old man in his 80s," Bian said. "One day I saw him stumble, so I offered him a stick."

Unexpectedly, the older man got angry and yelled at Bian, thinking that he was mocking him.

He soon learned that people took less offense if he simply left the sticks in the local community office or by the side of the road. To avoid misunderstandings, he always leaves a note telling people that the sticks are free.

He makes one or two sticks a day, leaving some friends to question why he does not he sell them. They are neatly carved and smoothly polished with a handle. Similar ones in shops cost about 20 yuan ($2.90) each.

"To be frank, I don't need the money," Bian said. "My pension is 3,000 yuan a month, and my wife's is 2,000. That money is enough for us. I would feel uneasy if I earned money from the sticks. Money can be used up, but sometimes, something more important should be preserved."

Bian's room is small, almost filled by his bed and a wardrobe. Under the window he keeps several sticks, while his materials and tools are under the bed.

As he carried his sticks to a bus stop recently when Taiyuan was hit by snow, many passers-by nodded at him, while some told him to take care.

"Bian is a celebrity in our neighborhood," said Wang Eying, a neighbor. "A lot of people know him and like him, because he makes life easier for others."

Guo Huaming, 76, said her husband had an operation several years ago and used Bian's walking sticks during his rehabilitation.

China's netizens were also quick to praise Bian for his kindness after a photo of him was circulated online.

"May there be more people like Bian, and the world will become a better place," said one, under the username Yimowanweidexiaocesca.

Another, named Anran, said: "You make me feel warm on cold days."

Leaving his bundle at the bus stop, Bian stood aside to watch. After about 10 minutes, an elderly man came by and picked up a stick.

Bian smiled, turned around and left.


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