Rewriting the Script of My Life

By Gen Xu-xing (根旭星), Cheng San-ling (程三令)
Abridged and translated by Rosalind Chang (張薰云)
Syharn Shen (沈思含)

Rewriting the Script of My Life

By Gen Xu-xing (根旭星)
Cheng San-ling (程三令)
Abridged and translated by
Rosalind Chang (張薰云)
Syharn Shen (沈思含)

Having gambled and committed crimes, Zhang Wen-ru has transformed his life after encountering Tzu Chi. (Photo by Wang Feng-jiao)

After completing his mandatory military service, Zhang Wen-ru (張文儒) lived on his own away from home, started working night shifts, and picked up the habit of gambling. He'd play mahjong with his friends after getting off work each morning and was also hooked on online gambling games. Though he lost most of the time, when he did win, he'd squander all his money on buying things such as a stereo or a motorbike.

When playing mahjong, he'd sometimes complain over losing, and a friend would say to him, "Why don't you take revenge by robbing money?" Zhang actually listened to his friend and ended up being arrested after committing robbery.

At the police station where Zhang was detained, his father was so angry that he refused to speak to him. His mother, on the other hand, comforted him and brought him a warm boxed meal.

After four years in prison, Zhang was granted parole for good behavior and his parents tried what they could to help him start life anew. His parents moved to live with their son and helped him sell food for a living. After business went stable, they moved away to let Zhang become independent.

While in prison, Zhang happened to listen to a Da Ai Radio program that brought him hope and led him onto a new and reformed life. (Photo by Lai Wu-guang)

To not let his parents down, Zhang sold food in the mornings and worked part-time at an ice-making factory in the afternoons. One day, while cutting ice blocks, Zhang accidentally cut his thigh and had to be hospitalized. After being discharged from the hospital, a friend introduced him to direct selling and insurance sales. To reach his sales target, Zhang spent all his savings on buying products for selling and even got a credit card to buy more products, racking up a large amount of debt.

Alarmed by the high interest rate of his credit card, Zhang realized he must work to pay off his debts and found a job at a factory that offered board and lodging. With money to spare, he sank into his past, wayward habits. Once again, he started playing mahjong and computer games. He also frequented karaoke bars and met his girlfriend at one of these bars.

After becoming a certified Tzu Chi volunteer, Zhang fully dedicates himself to serve in his community. (Photo by Qiu Ting)

As jealousy issues and disputes about money arose in their relationship, Zhang acted on an impulse and murdered his girlfriend. Racked with guilt, he attempted suicide, and when he awoke, he found himself in a hospital. Wishing to redeem his sins with his own death, he admitted to all the crimes that he was accused of and pleaded for capital punishment. In the end, Zhang was sentenced to 18 years and 4 months of imprisonment.

In spite of everything, his heartbroken mother often visited him in prison until one day, she slipped in the bathroom and fell into a vegetative state. Zhang never got a chance to see his mother one last time before she passed away.

After his mother's death, life became even more miserable in prison, so he bought a radio with the money he saved up. One Sunday morning, he chanced upon a radio program produced by Tzu Chi's Da Ai Radio and heard the host say, "Life is like a play and we write our own script. It doesn't matter if the first half of the script is poorly written. What matters is how you write the second half from now on."

These words brought hope to Zhang's life, and ever since that day, he'd tune in to that program every Sunday morning. He started to go vegetarian, make donations to Tzu Chi, and even invited his fellow inmates to donate with him as well.

Zhang bravely tells his father that he loves him and gives him embraces like he used to do as a child. (Photo by Gen Xu-xing)

After Zhang was released on parole, to prove to his aged father that he has truly turned over a new leaf, he brought his father to a Tzu Chi event and told him that he will serve with Tzu Chi from then on.

Resolved to make a fresh start, Zhang completely gave up smoking, drinking, and gambling, and with the help and support from Tzu Chi volunteers, he found courage to keep finding a job despite many obstacles. He worked hard to pay off his debts, volunteered by doing recycling work, and received training to become a certified Tzu Chi volunteer.

The unconditional love his mother always gave him is what keeps Zhang moving forward. He will forever remember her words to him when she last saw him in prison. "No matter what difficulties you encounter, you have to face them bravely and write your own script in life. I won't be able to take care of you forever."

Carrying deep pain from not being able to repay his mother’s love, Zhang now strives to be a good son to his father. He visits his father every month to chat with him and give him foot massages. He also embraces and kisses him the way he used to when he was a child.

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