Kids in wheelchairs in a parade at a sports carnival: Sometimes those physically or mentally-challenged have a better grasp on happiness.
A group of disabled kids teaches the writer that happiness is not the sole privilege of the strong and the rich. It’s for the weak and the poor, too.
I was sitting there, minding my own business, enjoying the peace and tranquility of the resort, when a group of people pushing wheelchairs and helping others on crutches appeared. There were Malay women in headscarves, Indian women in saris, Chinese women and men. It was a very Malaysian scene.
I saw some sleek wheelchairs that looked as if they belonged in a Formula 1 race. Others had buttons and levers enough to operate a space shuttle. There were also some simple crutches. Those in wheelchairs or on crutches were clearly disabled in some way. Some didn’t look mentally-challenged, but others were evidently so. I felt as if I was judging a pageant. Some of them looked at me without embarrassment or as though they were trying to get some sympathy from me.
Their caregivers, probably their parents, had one thing in common: concerns about bringing up a child with cerebral palsy. The children looked excited and eager in anticipation of what lay ahead. It’s the kind of feeling those of us with our full faculties have probably forgotten how to feel.
They smiled, giggled, talked and laughed out loud, though their words sounded incoherent. They fidgeted in their wheelchairs, and they looked as if they would have sprinted across the grounds if they could stand up. I smiled awkwardly, unsure of how to react. I tried not to appear condescending. I was happy and sad at the same time – sad to see so many disabled people, but happy perhaps because I was absorbing the happiness they were radiating.
This picnic was special and it said so on their faces. The group played some physical games on the field, including tug-of-war. Most of the games involved the caregivers. There was cheering and laughter. I rushed to my room to get my camera, but when I got back, the group had disappeared into the vast hot spring park. Some of them were by the pool, by themselves or in the arms of someone supporting them. Others who weren't physically able to join in, were sitting in their chairs at the edge of the pool.
I was right behind a few of them. I couldn’t tell how old they were. Two of them were talking to each other in what seemed like gibberish. But they understood each other well enough. The conversation had rhythm, cadence and emotion, like how all good conversations should be. An adult came by and joined in, and the conversation became more interesting because now I could understand it. The kids didn’t notice me, but being invisible allowed me to share the space with them.
The caregivers fascinated me, too. Their lives must be full of concerns over their loved ones whose future seem written in the stars, or perhaps written off. Every day is probably more of the same pain, without much hope for a better tomorrow. Yet, they all seemed bright and positive.
The younger ones seemed more intense and focused, trying hard to make the most out of the day and the occasion. The older ones were more relaxed. All of them seemed to appreciate the escape from their everyday weariness, and shared in the joy and happiness of their charges.
If you think things like race, religion, money and positions in society are the most important things in life, they aren’t. Or rather, they don’t have to be. It’s about focusing your energy and efforts into what’s really important – the happiness of those you love. Happiness is not the sole privilege of the strong, the able and the rich. It’s for the weak, the disabled and the poor, too.
Maybe they're more open to it and are wise enough to know when they're experiencing it. They don’t take it for granted. Maybe even with our able minds and bodies, we can’t understand this – or maybe we're not that able after all.
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