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Disability is in the mind….

31 October 2105, it was a Saturday morning.

My mood was quickly lifted by the fresh air and clear sky when I woke up in the morning and I couldn’t wait for the golden rays to pierce through the clouds and shine on this little green island.

Our doors and windows have been closed for weeks, making me feel like we were prisoners of the haze, trapped and at its mercy, within and without.

Per my weekend routine, I visited mom in the community hospital early in the morning.

After a couple of short chats, I decided to get mom out of the bed for some fresh air. I helped her onto the wheel chair and pushed her to level 1 where there is a place for patients and families to rest and relax, since level 2’s entertainment corner was too cold for mom.

After I have set up the iPad YouTube for mom to watch movie, I turned on my MacBook Air, hoping to pen down the thoughts that have been lingering in me for the past weeks.

Relax... Nikon D5300 1/250 sec at f/1.8, ISO 100 35 mm (35.00 mm f/1.8)

Nikon D5300
1/250 sec at f/1.8, ISO 100
35 mm (35.00 mm f/1.8)

The day was still young, and I could remember that as we passed the entertainment hall, there were only s few patients with their families in it.

A television sits on the opposite of each corner of the hall, one for English Channel and the other Mandarin channel.

Ever since mom’s fall and transferred here, this hospital (to be exact, it’s more like a rehabilitation center) has become my third home other than my house and the office.

And during my visits, many a times I crossed path with patients who were on wheel chair, noticing that either they were too weak to walk, or their leg(s) were amputated. This would always arouse a sense of sympathy deep within my heart.

And for that reason, I didn’t dare to look into their eyes at times, fearing that my sympathy may turn out to be despise in front of them. Hence, I avoided most of their eye contacts.

I could clearly recall a scene that triggered my thougt last Saturday, as I sat in the entertainment hall with my mom.

Somewhere near our seats, two aged patients were happily chatting away while watching the programme on the television.

I could see their faces beaming with contentment even though there were two men, a walking stick, a wheel chair but only three legs.

Nikon D5300 1/250 sec at f/1.8, ISO 800 35 mm (35.0 mm f/1.8)

Nikon D5300
1/250 sec at f/1.8, ISO 800
35 mm (35.0 mm f/1.8)

One of the patients had his right leg amputated, and his bright smile is always present on his face, which shows no clue that he is a crippled.

This scene stirred some thoughts in me, wondering how would I have behave me if given the same situation. Will I be as positive as he is?

I have never liked to be in the hospital. I have always thought that it’s a place where there is more tears and sorrows than laughter and happiness, which somehow makes me feel ashame for not cherishing what I have at this present moment.

This led me to another familiar scene in Singapore.

I have noticed that there has been an increase in street performers these few years, and they can be found in the town central area, the underground tunnels, and sometimes tourist attractions. Many of them are partially disabled, either blind, crippled or without one or two arms.

Yet, they have never looked down upon themselves, using their learned skills and perform along the streets to earn a living for their own. They are not beggars, they work to get paid.

I have always respected these people for their courages and determination to be independent.

A few years ago, I read a prose titled “The Longest Tunnel” (Chinese prose). It was about the author’s conversation with a blind man in the train as they were passing through a long tunnel, and everything outside the window was pitch dark.

The blind man told the author that he has been traveling in the longest and never ending tunnel in his entire life.

Isn’t that the most brutal truth? To the blinds, their world is just but a tunnel where everything is dark. They won’t be able to see this colorful world, they can’t get to see the morning sun rays.

It is very sad but nothing can be done about it.

Nevertheless, they live and sometimes lead an even more meaningful life than normal people like us.

When I first heard the song “Your are my eyes” (Chinese song) by Xiao Huang Qi, I was touched by the lyrics.

“What’s black is not black, and the white you said is not white. The blue sky mentioned by others, is what I could remember of a blue hiding behind the clouds. When I look at you, all I see is nothing. Has God put a blind in front of me and forgotten to remove it?”

Xiao Huang Qi has not given up on himself despite being blind. He learned, he fought and he strived to be where he is right now, a known singer in Taiwan.

This world is not short of blind talented performers. We have Chen Wei Lian in Singaproe; there is Steve Wonder in US. And they have achieved heights that normal people like us can only dream of.

They have my respect and they will always remind me that being disabled is not the end of the world.

God has allowed me to be able to see, but what do I really see? Have I made full use of my eyes or have I live my life blindly?

Few years back, I chanced upon this book written by a Chinese young lady that contains her thoughts. In one of her prose, she wrote:

“The moment I recovered slightly, I looked into the mirror. But what I saw was a sickly person, which hurt me so much. I have been bedridden for the past few days, tossing around and feeling weak. Life is short, but yet a day’s torture was so unbearable. I have no mood to read, neither do I have the luxurious moment to think. My body was fighting with the sickness.

The weather in April was unpredictable, just like a woman’s mood. I locked myself in my room, enduring the pain while drinking warm water, one cup after another, hoping that the sun rays will drive away the clouds, and the next morning, I would be clear in my head, and recover fully, and it will be to me, a perfect wonderful spring.”

Her name is Tian Wei. She was born with a sickness that cannot be cured. She grew up with pain, but yet she was so strong, that during the years when she fought with the sickness, she has never stopped writing her thoughts, till the day she left this beautiful world at the age of 21.

She was the one who really enlightened me one day when I saw her book in the bookstore. Her life was short and dark, and she yearned for the sunshine that everyone of us possesses.

I guess it is the greed of human beings that makes us not to cherish what we already have. More often than not, we only start to feel for those things that we have lost. If not for the weeks of haze, would all of us be missing the sunny bright sun and the drizzling or pouring rain?

It has been many months since I joined Kok Keong’s “walking party” for lunch everyday, no matter sunshine or rain.

We would walk for hundreds of metres, yes, hundreds of metres under the sun!

And as we come back from the walk after our meals, we will be wet from all the perspiration and tickled the curiosity of other colleagues. They could not understand why we would want to torture ourselves when we can drive out for our lunches.

Singaporean has been brought up in a peaceful, stable and advance society where there is more luxury than poverty.

Many of us grew up with so much comfort and conveniences created for us, the elevators, the public transport, family cars, etc, that walking for a few hundreds of metres seems to be a chore or something everybody will avoid whenever possible.

At times I truly feel blessed for what I have. God has given me a pair of legs that I can use for walking, senses that work fine for me which allow me to feel, to see, to listen and to talk, what else can I ask for and what is walking a few hundreds of metres to me?

Whenever I cross path with the less fortunate, it would always make me wonder, would these people be looking at normal people like me with envy, and yet despise us for not fully utilizing the gifts God has given us.

We can see but we don’t, we can hear but we talk more than we listen. We can talk but we utter absolute rubbish or sarcastic remarks, we can walk but we choose to let the four wheels bring us around even when the distance is short.

We have been so blessed that we have forgotten to appreciate the kindness God has given to us. Hence, we continue to grumble and complain at the slightest dissatisfaction in life….

31 October 2015

Francis Lim


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