There is a saying, “if pigs could fly,” meaning that pigs don’t fly, and if we think they fly, that’s ridiculous, or impossible. However, the ensign of Cincinnati, my beloved city of 47 years, is the flying pig. Which implies that Cincinnati is ridiculous or feels like it could do the ridiculous. And there are some things about Cincinnati I could say which may have sounded ridiculous, or impossible, but actually became possible.
Like the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, in the “middle of nowhere” in the USA, without a Harvard University next to it, without East Coast elite institutions next to it, no Stanford down the street, just a Children’s Hospital in a little conservative Midwestern town. Yet it has become one of the two leading institutions in pediatrics in the country, and the world. What an amazing “pigs can fly” kind of a story.
The little Chinese language speaking church in this Midwestern town of very few Chinese families, could even be considered a mini story of a pig that could fly. Originally starting with only 10-20 families, no sponsors, no denominational support, no pastors sent from somewhere else, in a landlocked town with a small Asian population, it grew to a church of 500 congregants at several sites. Active ingredients were significant college student outreach at 2 campuses, regular visitation family outreach, restaurant ministries at different sites, five evangelism meetings a year, China scholars ministry, very strong youth ministry, enthusiastic children’s ministries, long standing regular short-term missions, China medical missions, and 55 full time mission and ministry workers from the church in 46 years: you could say that pigs are not supposed to fly, but “maybe they do.” And these are just my 2 favorite stories of the pigs-can-fly city.
Cincinnati was nicknamed “Porkopolis,” for being the USA center for pork in the 1880s. This can be astonishing to many: how did this little city become, for a period, the center for pork production for the USA? It turns out the great Ohio River, which Cincinnati adjoins and effectively straddles, had a lot to do with that, allowing pork related products to be transported, along the very long Mississippi, through the river towns of the Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico, especially before the era of railway transportation. Now let me quiz you, apart from obvious bacon and ham from pork, “what comes from tons of pork fat?”
Well, tons of pork fat produced Procter & Gamble!… How?
Procter, and Gamble, were 2 young enterprising Cincinnati men, actively working independently on their own, producing candlesticks and soap respectively. Both tapping into the tons of available Cincinnati pork. Do you get it now? Literally, a story reflecting the beauty and great value of pork fat for many products, but especially for candles and soap. These 2 men also cleverly married two sisters, merged their companies, and produced Procter and Gamble, the largest consumer products company in the world, a novel “pork to P and G story.”
普羅克特（Procter）和甘布林（Gamble）是两个住在辛辛那提有进取心的年青人。他们各自专注于自己的事业，一个制造蜡烛，另一个制造肥皂。他们都使用大量辛辛那提的猪肉。你明白了吗？这个故事说明了猪油在例如蜡烛和肥皂等众多商品里的价值。这两个年轻人很聪明的和一对姐妹结婚，合并了他们的公司，成立了宝洁（Procter and Gamble），当前世界上最大的消费者日用品公司。这是一个很特别的“猪变成宝洁的故事”。
Which then led to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital… How?
Mr. Procter was an ardent Episcopalian with a strong bent to philanthropy. His significant support gave major impetus to the 1884 building of the Children’s Hospital of the Episcopal Church, spear-headed by its dedicated Ladies Group. What was even more amazing, in my view, was that his grandson had the unique foresight to start a Research Foundation focused only on pediatric research, nearly 90 years ago! That was practically unheard of then. The Foundation grew from around $3 million to more than $2 billion, a tremendous support for the super active research programs at Children’s Hospital, and a main reason it is now so impressively world renowned. (See also URS “the P and G story,” at Reggietales.org).
普羅克特先生是一位热诚有基督信仰的圣公会信徒并且热心公益。他的大力支持推动了在一八八四年动工的，由圣公会妇女组带领的圣公会儿童医院。但是我个人认为更了不起的是它的孙子在九十年前能有独到的前瞻去建立一个只专注于儿科研究的研究基金会！这个在当时是闻所未闻的。之后，这个基金的规模从三百万美金成长到了二十亿，大力推动了儿童医院十分强健活跃众多研究项目。这是儿童医院能够世界闻名的主要原因。（请参照在 Reggietales.org 里的曾叔叔说故事之“宝洁故事”）
“Coastal elites” may condescendingly call our area of the country “flyover” country, which they just fly over, and can basically ignore. But Cincinnatians “couldn’t care less” about this slight, since we feel even our pigs can proudly fly, and our pigs-can-fly attitude has richly blessed this area, and I might without hyperbole add, even the world.
It even blessed the Cincinnati Chinese church.. How?
As co-founders of the Cincinnati Chinese Church, Shipei Chu and I were also the beneficiaries of this “flying pig” story. A year before I moved to Cincinnati, Procter and Gamble had directly hired Shipei as engineer, as part of the then big wave of engineering students in US graduate schools from Taiwan who migrated to the US. To come and work in Midwestern Cincinnati, and not the usual Asian destination of New York or California. And to stay his professional life at the Company until he later answered a “higher calling” into full time ministry in Los Angeles.
A year after Shipei arrived, the charming Cincinnati Children’s Hospital was the professional reason I also came to Cincinnati, far from the then much more famous coastal US medical schools and hospitals, to learn and serve in Neonatal Medicine. And there I stayed for 47 years! As far as I know, the hospital wasn’t then on any Asian radar screen, since in the early years I was only one of two Asian Faculty in the entire hospital! And the other one left after a few years, so I was the only one left for a while!
Together with a third elder, David Louie, and a small core team, the Cincinnati Chinese Church sprang up. In classical Chinese understanding, even consistent with Biblical considerations, it was “Heaven’s will, or tian yi,” that the Church was born, to become ultimately a significant and vibrant Chinese Christian presence, as a minority of minorities, in conservative not-so-diverse Midwest America. Indeed, a Chinese version of pigs that fly.
I would think that “pigs that fly” is a concept of inspiration. We can be inspired to do things we don’t normally think is possible. A higher purpose, a higher goal, a higher meaning. After all, why are we even on this earth? What are we living for? Is that all there is in life? And the pig, surprisingly can be one great symbol of that inspiration!
The world is currently obsessed with cleaning up its trash. I remember leading village school children in rural China, 20 years ago, to go up the mountains to pick up trash, plastic bags, food containers, and bottles that were strewn seemingly everywhere, spoiling the beautiful scenery of the countryside. But the pig preceded us and could even be considered an inspiration. Walking around the villages I was fascinated to see what the pigs actually ate.
In addition to lots of slurpy food in many pigsties, village pigs (especially boars) could often be seen foraging around even on the streets, gorging away at their food, well, “just like pigs”… their food being apparently anything and everything, including trash. A great natural recycling process. What an efficient way for the obviously happy pig to handle all that “waste,” and then to be eaten themselves by happy Chinese! I just read that, surprise, Cincinnati in the heyday of pork production also had pigs roaming around on the streets, cleaning (eating) up the trash! China pigs and American pigs might have many things in common, similar life styles and fates. An inspiration even if they aren’t flying.
Another pig inspiration comes from the fact that many pig organs, like heart valves can be used as surgical replacements for human organs, quite successfully. Pig internal organs can be about the same size, and have similar physiology, as humans, so they could be a great fit. However, one of my friends was stuck for 40 long days in one of the worst jails in Central Asia, because he performed heart surgery that used pig heart. Apparently by so doing, he offended those who didn’t appreciate having pig parts inside humans, believing it was just like eating them, a taboo in their religion! At least 4 major religions have problems about eating pork, so this pig inspiration comes with a potential red flag.
And of course, the greatest pig inspiration in most of the world, is still pork, especially in China and Chinese food, which itself is probably the most pervasive ethnic food in the world. In a surprising turnabout, a huge amount of pork is now sent to China from the USA, to feed “hungry” Chinese. English-speaking people like to use the phrase “bringing coals to Newcastle” as indicating the unlikeliness, or even uselessness, of bringing any gift to someone who already has lots of that gift. “Bringing pork to China” might sound just like that, and could become a new phrase.
Or, viewed in another way, Americans have finally been inspired to contribute helpfully, and cash in, regarding the ancient art of fine Chinese cuisine, just imagine that. Of course, Chinese really love pork, wherever it is from, China or USA. Can you imagine Chinese food without pork! Eaten in literally thousands of ways, all deliciously.
Inspired by beef hamburgers, Hong Kongers at McDonald’s can even devour pork burgers, something we are deprived in America. There is a famous USA Chick-fil-A restaurant that, well, serves chicken burger; their ad is a cartoon of a cow pleading in cow English, “eat mor chikin,” and thus less beef (cow), which I sympathize with from a medical viewpoint. A creative Hong Kong Chick-fil-A ad could also add a pig pleading to humans to eat less pork, which might would be even a sensible health ad. Sorry, I am not really inspired by more and more pork on the menu.
受到牛肉汉堡的启发，香港麦当劳甚至提供猪肉汉堡给香港人大快朵颐，这种经历是在美国没办法享受到的。不过在美国有一个叫做 Chik-fil-A 的餐馆专门提供鸡肉汉堡。它的广告是一头牛用牛的腔调恳求的说“多吃点鸡吧”，这样就会少吃点牛肉。我从医学角度来看我赞同牛说的这句话。这个有创意的广告如果在香港出现可能会变成一只猪恳求人类少吃点猪肉。这个广告甚至可以充当一个有意义的健康广告。对不起，我实在是不赞同餐馆菜单里越来越多的猪肉。它们启发不了我的灵感。
And yes, back to pigs that really can fly: inspiration, flying in spite of significant limitations. Think P and G, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Porkopolis, even a Chinese non culinary angle, the Cincinnati Chinese Church. What’s your pigs-can-fly inspiration?