Mary PW Chin
I am one among the smiling species. Cats and dogs, horses and donkeys do not smile. Boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen do.
Everyone is born to make a splash. Every splash is worth a smile. This logic is inclusive — it neither excludes individuals nor flocks based on socio-economic circumstance or medical condition. The logic is also unconditional, in that we don't earn the logic and we should never pretend to have earned a logic which has been endowed upon us as a birth right.
There are basic rights more fundamental than the rights to free speech and free votes, though nobody should be denied speech and electoral freedom. The basic rights I'm referring to are the right to vocation, the right to thanksgiving and the right to consecrate one's life. We cannot tell anybody — anybody at all — that he or she has no vocation in life, or he or she should be ashamed of his or herself, or he or she is forsaken by God.
There are more basic needs at least as fundamental as food or shelter, though we must continue to push for balanced distribution of food and fair availability of shelter. A need often left outside the radar is the need to express oneself. I'm not talking about the mocks people litter around social media — no, not that level of expression. I'm referring to self expression by way of loving and giving (in Mandarin we call this 付出), creating arts and discovering science — all of which invites us to zoom out of ourselves, to others, reaching depths and breadths with an open mind and open heart.
To parents planning the future of a child with special needs, here's my invitation to cultivate that channel of expression. Yes, we should always go all out and push as far as we can the aspects of self care, mobility and economy — that as far as possible the child should be trained to take care of washing or toiletting, be able to get things from the shop and pay at the counter, be able to earn a living. But these are not all, do not forget that there should be at least a channel for expression, be it music or art or something the ordinary society knows not. This need is equally valid regardless of physical fitness and mental facility. The need is fundamental and essential rather than casual or optional. These children are also among the smiling species, just as you and I are, even as the pains in life can be very real.
Litany of discrimination
Nobody should ever be denied the basic rights to vocation, thanksgiving and a life of consecration. This fundamental rule covers the entire hierarchy of social stigmas and discriminations. We are all of the same smiling species — whether or not condemned by earthly courts. One of my biggest regrets is not to have retained a copy of an article I read in my teens. Mapping a full litany of discriminations, it ran something like this: ministers look down on scholars, scholars look down on tycoons, tycoons look down on poor peasants, poor peasants look down on labourers, labourers look down on the lame, the lame look down on the prisoner, the prisoner look down on women of the sex trade, who in turn look down on men who fall in love with fellow men. The list scrolls on, as you and I readily testify. We are in fact all of the same smiling species.
I count myself one among the smiling species because my joys exceeds my cares, I believe I have a vocation and I live a life of thanksgiving.