Age Is Just a Number

Compiled by Nick Chen (陳鼎棋)
Connie Chen (陳慷妮)

Age Is Just a Number

Compiled by Nick Chen (陳鼎棋)
Connie Chen (陳慷妮)

Zhang shares the story of his journey with Tzu Chi. (Photo by Wang Jin-yuan)

As the eldest volunteer at Tzu Chi's recycling station in Zhanghua, Zhang Ding-xiong (張定雄) devotes his life to the cause. He drives a recycling truck to collect recyclables and uses his own car to ferry other volunteers to Tzu Chi's activities around town. Inspired by his service to the community, young volunteers have also been eager to emulate his spirit of dedication and love.

"My grandma saved my life," Zhang Ding-xiong recalled. During his mother's pregnancy, she contracted dengue fever and fell into a semi-conscious state, which led to his premature birth. His grandmother swiftly used a hot water bottle to keep him warm, saving his life. As the eldest grandson, Zhang was raised by both his mother and grandmother, while his father, a police officer, was frequently away on duty.

Zhang (right) actively participates in Tzu Chi's activities. (Photo by Hong Ming-yao)

Discouraged by his father from pursuing a career in law enforcement, Zhang attended military school, where he mastered the skills to drive and repair tanks, trucks, and Jeeps. After completing his military service, he briefly worked as a taxi driver. Continuing his passion for repairing vehicles, Zhang, along with a brother who was experienced in car mechanics, opened an auto repair shop. Together, they formed a formidable team.

It was here that Zhang first became familiar with Tzu Chi. Two of his former teachers, volunteers for the organization actively fundraised and distributed Tzu Chi Monthly in the surroundings of Zhang's auto repair shop. Therefore, when they came to service their cars, they introduced him to Tzu Chi.

Zhang (left) moves recyclables to the recycling truck. (Photo by Wang Jin-yuan)

Since then, Zhang has been donating money to the organization every month and reading Tzu Chi Monthly whenever he can. Deeply moved by the magazine and the teachings of Master Cheng Yen, he decided to become a Tzu Chi volunteer. He received training in Tzu Cheng Faith Corps and became the designated truck driver for transporting recyclables. In 1997, he was accredited as Master Cheng Yen's disciple and committed to nurturing more volunteers to serve others.

In addition to driving the recycling truck, Zhang often used his personal car to take fellow volunteers to various Tzu Chi events, training sessions, and the homes of aid recipients. He generously shouldered all the transportation costs, including fuel and maintenance, without ever asking for reimbursement or asking others to chip in. His effort and spirit inspired many young volunteers to follow suit.

Recycling work has become part of Zhang's life. (Photo by Wang Jin-yuan)

Now, at the age of 79, Zhang remains unwavering in his dedication to volunteering for Tzu Chi. Early in the mornings during his bicycle rides, he picks up recyclables he finds along the way. He hopes to inspire more people to join his efforts and help make the world a better place.

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