One of the most amazing things so far with my work with persons with disabilities is meeting a man who drives his motorcycle at 90kph with only one hand. And I’m behind him, holding for dear life for two hours.
Kuya Edison is the man. And he likes speed. At 31, he’s been through various leadership positions in his community, including the homeowners’ association, the barangay council, the college he attended, and now his town’s organization of people with disabilities. And, of course, he likes riding his motorcycle, zooming across his native North Cotabato’s idyllic terrains.
I almost freaked out when, while we were skirting the speedometer’s 80 kph mark, Kuya Edison brushed his hair with his impaired right arm (it has nothing beyond the wrist). More than five seconds passed. Like five eternities. I really couldn’t believe it.
Talk about confidence and real awesomeness!
Adept in drawing interiors and bold enough to try making portraits using sign pens, Gidelle is suffering from a debilitating disease. Weak and emaciated, now she can’t walk, is in pain, and getting worse. The 12-year-old may not even reach 20.
Thus it was with awe at her cheerfulness and strong spirit that I let Gidelle use my sign pen to do a sketch of my colleague. Smiling shyly, she was focused on what she was doing, as if the illustration meant her meaning in the world, as if it was the only way she could make people other than her family happy. When the portrait was done, she couldn’t suppress a giggle of satisfaction — and I a sigh of shame for myself and my petty concerns.
Here was a girl, whose house was lost to typhoon Pablo (Bopha) last December, whose simple wish of going to school is shattered by her illness, and whose world is limited only to how far her father could bring her — and yet she still managed to be happy. Perhaps she was pressured by circumstance to look happy when we were there to interview her (my organization gave her the wheelchair). But if that were so, then she’s a very good actress as well. I seriously doubt it was just a front.
While by her cheerfulness she gave me hope, I also tried to leave her some advice that (I hope) may make her happier. Because she likes drawing, and has all the time in the world to make artworks, she can try to draw as many illustrations as she can. I suggested that she illustrate stories she enjoys. She could become a published illustrator, I told her. (And in that way, I thought, she’d be remembered long after she passes on: she’d be in people’s heart as the girl who drew and fought discouragement with a smile on her face and crayons in her hands.)
So, if you have art stuff to spare, or coloring books (she likes those), just ask me how to reach her. I plan to send her some as well. Because, really, making some people happy is very easy.