The Beautiful, Ugly Boat

In China on the great Yellow River there was a little village called Zang Dao. Many people there had small canoe-like boats. But one poor young man who was called long-faced Chen had created his own boat. He had taken a leaky old boat and tied large pieces of Styrofoam around it with rope. It was half boat, half raft. Two girls in the village, Ling and Rhee, would often canoe by him and yell, “That is an ugly boat, Chen!” and “Your boat sure is ug-leeeeh!” They would laugh at him, and he would smile, though no one likes to be ridiculed.

One day, upstream from the village, a dam broke. When the girls were in the middle of their crossing, a four-foot wave came down the river and turned their canoe over and threw them into the water. They couldn’t swim, so they cried out for help as they clung to the swamped canoe. Long-faced Chen paddled out to them, and extended his paddle to Ling who was closest. She took it, and he pulled her to him. But before she could climb in, he held her hands on the gunwale of the boat and said, “Now, how does my boat look?”

Ling looked up and smiled, “Your boat is beautiful, Chen.” Rhee was beside her in the water, and holding on to one of the ropes that held the Styrofoam in place. She laughed and said, “Yes! And you are not looking so bad yourself, handsome Chen!”

Commentary (by Tim Cimino)

In the past, many people have found my ideas unattractive. My way of solving the world’s problems didn’t look right—to them. But my ideas and methods may be like Chen’s boat, something that doesn’t look very refined or professional, yet something that ultimately can save lives when conventional methods (or boats) would have failed.

People often reject my solutions because they expect the solution to take another form. Please give me a chance to demonstrate an unexpected approach to solving the world’s problems.

“If you’re drowning and an ugly boat comes to rescue you, don’t refuse to get in.”


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