A couple of weeks ago, when I learned the theme of today’s competition, I asked some of my roommates: “What does ‘faith’ mean to you?” Just coming back from a philosophy class, the girls were in a poetic mood: “Faith is what John Lennon had when he wrote the legendary song ‘Imagine’ and dreamed of ‘world peace’”, “Faith is what the Hebrews had when they followed Moses through the Red Sea in search of their freedom.” “And faith is what the pilgrims had when they journeyed to that strange land on Mayflower, and started their pursuit of a new life.”
Thanks for the history lesson girls, but I was not asking for a great, historic event where faith might have altered the entire course of humanity. All I asked was “what does faith mean to you, to us, the individuals toiling with life’s hard choices each day?” Personally speaking, faith is like oxygen: I didn’t know how precious it was until I ran the risk of losing it.
My heart stirs still every time memory brings me back to three years ago, when the devastating earthquake engulfed our country. As one of the few cities that took the hit the hardest that day, my hometown was suddenly devoured by a black hole of depression. Having forsaken our worldly possessions, my family joined the army of tents every night, holding our breath and waiting for daybreak; having abandoned the comfort of home, we managed to lift ourselves up, along with neighbors and friends, when each after-shock threatened to tear us down. As a politician once put it, in the face of disaster, we’re reminded that life can be unimaginably cruel, but it’s also in these moments, that we rediscover our common faith in life.
Indeed, during those dark hours, faith blazed in the courage of my math teacher Ms. Liu, when she stayed behind in a shaking building until she made sure that the last student had safely evacuated; faith radiated from the persistence of my dad when he kept his eyes wide open every single night, so that my mom and I could have a good night’s sleep; faith was ignited from the empathy of my next-door neighbor, when she took a stranger that was in shock into her arms and consoled him with her warm embrace. In the end, faith was rekindled in the passion of me and my fellow classmates, who immediately got back to preparing for our College Entrance Examination the very next day, with gritted teeth, and a conviction as steady as a rock.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is what faith means to me. It’s the small voice in our ears that says: be strong, be good, and don’t give up whenever we’re frustrated by life. That's why after three years, my friends and family have picked themselves up, dusted themselves off and with tougher spirits, begun again their journey towards a better future.
At last, to twist the lyrics of last year’s charity song, I call upon my fellow young friends to chant together with me, in the name of faith, for all those who are still suffering in Haiti, Japan and Myanmar: when I get older, I will be stronger, they’ll call me faith, just like a waving flag. Let us carry above our heads the waving flag called Faith, and let its many inspirations lift us up from where we belong.