Saturday, 8 March 2014

Day 10: Prayers for Those Who Look a Little Different

Tan Family Chronicles' Pray With Us series
Day 1: Prayers for the Dearly Departed
Day 2: Prayers for the Littlest Ones We Never Got to Know
Day 3: Prayers for Those Here, But Not Present
Day 4: Prayers for Children to Be Well
Day 5: Prayers for those with Cancer
Day 6: Prayers for Those Who Want Kids But Can't
Day 7: Prayers for Those with Down Syndrome
Day 8: Prayers for all Marriages
Day 9: Prayers for the Safety of our Children

Day 10: Prayers for Those Who Look a Little Different

Today we have as our guest poster, Ms Theresa Goh Rui Si. She was born with congenital spina bifida and hence does not have use of her legs, and depends on a wheelchair for mobility on land. Theresa started swimming from age 5, and began to take part in swimming competitions from age 12. She has represented Singapore in dozens of international competitions, and won us tons of medals. She was the Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC)'s Sportsgirl of the Year in 2002 and 2003, and subsequently, Sportswoman of the Year from 2004 to 2006.

Theresa at the pool! Picture by Alan Lim Studio, from here.
Theresa is our family friend, as hubbs and I got to know her even before we were together as boyfriend/girlfriend. She is one of the most inspiring people we know personally. Theresa is often known as "Singapore swimmer Theresa Goh" or "Singapore Paralympian Theresa Goh". But if you want to know more things about her than you even knew about Sir Stamford Raffles, do look at the Wikipedia page on Theresa. It truly is quite comprehensive, though I think it hasn't been updated since late 2008. I know this because the medals listed in the Wikipedia article are only until 2008, and Theresa bags us a few medals EVERY YEAR.

Without further ado, let's hear from Theresa Goh!

I zoom around on four wheels and surely, to see a mini version of a car speeding around in malls or anywhere that’s not a road, must catch a fair bit of attention. I’m talking about my wheelchair of course! I’ve been sitting on a wheelchair for the past 20 years of my life, before which, I moved around on crutches. Something that hasn’t changed between using either of them, is the fact that people stare. The only real difference is that when I’m on a wheelchair, I can speed past people before I see them staring hahaha.

I know I stand out from the general crowd. For as long as I can remember, strangers of all ages have always gawked and stared and, while this may have annoyed me immensely in the past (and still does, sometimes, on bad days), I’ve since gotten used to the most of the staring.
Theresa, carrying the Queen's baton in Singapore. Photo from Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Flikr Photostream
The first memory I have of knowing that I was a little different was when I was about seven. I asked my mom what I should say to the kids, if they asked about my hands and lack of digits. My mom playfully told me to tell them that she had eaten them because she got hungry. My friends were probably afraid of my mom back then. There were so many times after, that I knew I was different from the others but somehow, it never really bothered me till I got older. I guess age has made me more sensitive to the gawking but once I got past understanding why they stared, I became more okay with it.

One way of dealing with people staring, or most of the unpleasant things that happen in life, is to look at the lighter side of things. But, as I grew older, I understood that staring was how majority of society dealt with seeing something they probably didn't understand. While I usually ignore people who stare, I know a friend who engages young children nicely and asks them if they may have any questions that may help them understand better, why she is on a wheelchair or why she doesn’t look like everyone else.
Awesome picture of Theresa working out at the gym. Photo by the Singapore Sports Council 
People gawk at what they don't understand and I cannot blame them but, I believe that it also boils down to manners; it’s rude to stare at someone, even if it’s because you don’t understand why they may look the way they do. I believe this starts at home and I hope that parents teach their children to be more sensitive to people who look different. Before saying or judging someone who is different from you, it is good to first place yourself in their shoes and maybe gain some perspective from their eyes. How would they feel if they heard someone commenting on their physical appearance?

I remember an incident eons ago, when I was a wee little girl. A child asked their parent why I could not walk and the parent answered “Jie Jie was naughty and fell down”. While this ignorant comment by a parent may not have affected me much back then, now that I think about it, I wonder what the parent may have meant by their comment. Do they mean that people with disabilities are bad or that anyone whom is different is a bad person? It may just be laziness on the parent’s part to spare a few minutes to help their child understand and to help their child empathize with other people.
Theresa at the 2013 Standard Chartered Marathon. Photo by Singapore Sports Council
While I don’t recall having any other encounters like those ignorant parent since then, I’m sure that there a millions of people around the world who face direct verbal, emotional and even physical abuse daily because they don’t fit in or because they’re different. And though ideally, it would be nice if people had more understanding and empathy (word of the day right?), I have some final words to share from someone who understands what it’s like to be a little different.


To those whose bodies differ from the norm, and this applies to people with disabilities and those without physical disabilities, have patience and empathy and know that your body is as beautiful as the rest of them. I hope and pray for those who are different, to maintain their patience and to understand that most people mean no harm in staring or judging. Believe and know that your body is beautiful as it is, you are an amazing individual just the way you are. And on days where patience wears a little thin, take a deep breath, and let it out. You can rant to someone you trust, on your social media page or on your blog! Either way, let it out because it’s not healthy to keep negativity in. :) I believe that as long as you’re beautiful on the inside, your beauty will shine through on the outside as well. 
Theresa and her family and cat - Abby! :) Photo from Theresa Goh
We thank Theresa for her heartfelt contribution above, it makes me want to hug her! Do like her Facebook Page if you wish to have her in your feed once in a while for a boost of inspiration :)

In addition to her prayers, we would like to pray for children and adults alike to have and display sensitivity to those around us and those of us who look a little different. Be it a physical disability, a distinctive birthmark, oddly angled limbs, lack of hair, different skin tone... We seek to be more sensitive and understanding, and strive to educate our young to be more aware and kind and refrain from staring and making rude or insensitive remarks. We pray for the wisdom and the presence of mind to be able to control ourselves from displaying thoughtless and insensitive behaviour to the friends around us.

We pray for those who do look a little different. We pray that they forgive those who stare and do make tactless and thoughtless remarks. We pray that they have patience with these people, especially children, to help them understand and learn. We pray that they will not take these to heart, and cast it off their hearts and minds. We pray that they know that they are an inspiration to everyone else around them, just by being them.  

Below is a video about a project called “Because Who is Perfect? Get Closer.” by  Pro Infirmis, an organization for persons with disabilities. To commemorate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities which falls on December 3rd of every year, Pro Infirmis has commissioned a series of mannequins that reflect the real bodies of people with physical disabilities for this project. The video below captures the entire process of measuring the people, the sculpting of the mannequins, the display of the mannequins in the store window display, to the reactions of the people who see them. A must watch!

8 comments:

  1. Love this! And I agree that compassion and empathy begins at home. Thanks for the reminder!

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    1. You're welcomed! It was a reminder for me too!

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    2. Thank you for reading, I'm glad you liked it! :D

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  2. What an inspirational article. Hugs to Theresa. I also have a friend who has been on crutches and a wheelchair, and we used to play snatch scrabble together. Take care, you're wonderfully and beautifully made!

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    1. Thank you so much! Hugs back to you. :)

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  3. Really meaningful post, Pam. Thanks for this reminder...It's just so easy to forget and not spare a thought for people who are different from us! And yet aren't they pretty much the same inside, they need love and belonging too.

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  4. Thank you for reading, I'm glad you liked it! :D

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