They Make me feel special
By Rocky Culanag
Looking back, I consider it a real blessing that I got sick during my Physical Therapy internship at the University of the Philippines. It was during my ‘blues’ period that I got to hear about the community-based rehabilitation program in Fr. Conal’s parish of Malate. I decided to give it a shot and try to help. It turned out that these children were the ones who really helped me.
This is the story of these chldren who despite having problems in their mental growth have helped me grow as a person.
Balong, real name is Alfredo, is seventeen, he looks very grow-up, complete with beard and all but he is really a child at heart. He is very gentle and gentlemanly. Although he speaks mostly in monosyllables and cant’ even spell his whole name, I think he knows about the more important things in life. One time, the parents has a meeting and Balong we there. Everybody was seated. Balong stood up right away to offer his seat. I was really touched when I saw this as he was the only one of all the people sitting there who offered his seat. He’s really thoughtful, sometimes during class when I have to take care of everything, I really get exasperated but suddenly Balong would be behind me, patting me in the back and reminding me that I, and “basa –basa” and then he gives me one of his gap-toothed smiles. Hearing those few syllables is the greatest consolation to me. Offer me a lengthy oration or Balongs two words and I’ll take Balongs’ grunts anytime.
Analyn is a sixteener with Down’s Syndrome. When I first met her she was really very quite. I decided to bring her along with me whenever I visit other children in their home. After this exposure and with gentle encouragement in class it really takes an effort to keep her quite now. She’s developed into a really friendly and outgoing young lady. She greets everybody by saying “Ang pogi mo. Ang ganda mo” (you’re handsome. You’re pretty). She says this to Fr. Conal who I thick believes it even though handsome is hardly how I’d describe him.)
She really makes me feel special; when she says: Rocky, Mukha ka Sharon Cuneta, lab kita”. She almost always accompanies me when I visit the paraplegics in Balay Kalayaan (a branch of the Cheshire Homes in nearby street). She entertains them with her impersonations and her knock knock jokes. They really miss her when for some reason or other she doesn’t accompany me, who would have though that a special child like her would be the one to bring joy to other handicapped people.
Gladys is a young girl with cerebral palsy. Despite difficulty in walking she often drops by the office just to chat; by ‘chat’ I mean squeaks and grunts. Never the less she manages to cheer me up especially when she runs to greet me on the street. With her lopsided grin and her squeals of delight she perks me up.
Jason is mentally retarded. He scoots on his bottom instead of walking. I really get a kick out of working with him, laterally. The first time I saw he gave me a real hard kick on the shin. Later, I realized it was his way of communicating with me. He really tests the limits of my patience. One time I cried because he pulled my hair very fiercely. The funny things was when I glanced the other way with him still holding on to my hair, I saw that Cathy (one of the Irish lay missionaries) was in the same predicament with other child. We just laughed at each other, at the next class we both sported very short hair. Inspites of his violent forms of expression Jason can also be appreciative. He claps with glee when we visit him at home. There was one time I was shocked when he suddenly grabbed my hair, I thought he was angry but then he only wanted to give a kiss on the cheek. After found do he let go of me and smiled. What could I do but smile in return?
My Problems are Petty
Working with these children and other volunteers and parents ha really opened up my world. They have made me see how pretty my problems are. They made me realize the value of life. Because of them I came to appreciate God’s gifts to me. It is to them that I offer these gifts in return. For I have seen that working together we cam make this world a better place for live in. we all have gifts to share and I’ve come to realize how much the special children have to share even though at first glance they seem to have so little. It is in sharing that everybody is made whole.
“Only in sharing can we become whole”