People donate for the blind, give generously towards old age homes and orphanages, but it is difficult having them part so liberally with their money towards charities or NGOs who work for the mentally challenged.
I pondered on this as I drove back that evening: I’d seen the sterling work done by an NGO, had interviewed parents, even seen the tremendous affection displayed by teachers, supportive staff and students. I had noticed smiles on the faces of these children as they went through a session of animal therapy, even laughter and happiness as they finally discovered caring people who finally understood them.
I had seen lives being changed, but I drove home puzzled.
Puzzled that the world’s purse strings were closed or grudgingly opened: That when it came to giving for these unfortunate children, most seemed reluctant.
And then it hit me; they could not see!
They saw a misshapen head, quite often the result of a wrongly used pair of forceps during birth. They saw an adult acting like a child. They heard monstrous sounds. They were repulsed by convulsions, disgusted by childish behavior, sickened by erratic movements.
As I drove back that day, I heard a child cry; I stopped the car, and watched: A young mother soothing a wailing baby: Nobody objected, she was at a bus stop, her husband next to her. People looked at the child with sympathy, even gave advice. Then I watched the father pick the child from its mother’s arms. He held the baby with deep affection, gently rocked the child and lil’ baby stopped crying; there was a smile on everyone’s face at that bus stop.
And then I saw another baby in my mind’s eye: He was fourteen, looked adult: He cried, he threw his adult arms in childish tantrums, and people looked away hurriedly.
“No!” I cried as my driver looked at me in surprise, “Don’t look away, that’s a baby!”
“Who sir?” he asked.
“All those children we saw today; each one of them is a child in an adult’s body!”
I looked back at the father gently rubbing his baby’s back, I watched the mother looking lovingly at her child, and I realized what needed to be told to society in general, before they look away from a child who is mentally challenged, “Open your eyes sir, look deep inside: Do you see the child inside?”
Robert Clements is a newspaper columnist and author. He blogs at www.bobsbanter.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org