Palpable Stories of China's Disabled Children

The last blog post gave background to the situation around disabled and abandoned children in China. This one cuts to the heart of the matter by presenting palpable individual stories and a surreal day in the park with the kiddos from the orphanage.

Bi Bi with Jess. Best
The first “story” is about Bi Bi. I placed the word story in quotations because we know very little solid information regarding the actual situation around most of the children. Bi Bi is one of the bright and happy little girls with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy now under the loving care of ICC. She cannot walk and is cognitively impaired, but she has the love of thousands within her and can give you a “don’t mess with me” scowl as convincing as any five year-old I have ever encountered.

There were stories told that Bi Bi’s courageous father had come to see her. It is believed now that she is a twin. As a parent, I can only conclude that Bi Bi’s father loves her, he thinks of her, and he simply cannot personally care for her within the current system. When I think of the bond between twins, I wonder if Bi Bi's sister or brother can feel her spirit as well.

Next is the tale of Sheng Sheng. This truly is a tale because we have absolutely no information about this little boy except that he was abandoned and brought to the welfare center just a month ago. We can tell by Sheng Sheng’s teeth he must be about six years old. He loves to be outside. If he could speak, Sheng Sheng could tell us his own story. It might go something like this.

I was born into a loving lower class family. I was fine and we all went home together. My mommy and daddy both had to work hard to put rice on the table, but my Granny took very good care of me. She was always there. I did not walk or talk as early as the other kids. We had no money for doctors or therapy, but Granny did the best she could. She loved me. Eventually I started walking and talking a little with Granny’s help, but then one day she was gone. Do you know what happened to my Granny?

Mom and dad tried to put me into school, but the school would not accept me. I did not understand. No one seemed to understand. I sat at home a lot in front of the TV. I cannot walk by myself, and I don’t have anyone to talk to. I was very lonely and now I am here.
Do you know where I am?

Sen Sen
I had the opportunity to work with Sheng Sheng quite a bit while in China. He is a profoundly developmentally delayed little boy, but it becomes obvious when you handle and play with him that his physical and cognitive levels were higher in the past. He needs one to one therapy and a lot of love and affection to reach his potential. ICC is now currently at capacity in Hengyang, and they are unable to bring Sheng Sheng under their direct care. Alison, ICC’s one physical therapist from the UK, promises to try and include Sheng Sheng in some group activities with the other ICC boys his age.

A boy like Sheng Sheng would probably not be in line to receive the Chinese tech’s attention within the welfare center because his likelihood of being adopted is so low. Before I left though, Alison and I completed a therapy evaluation with these young, caring, and smart ladies. They were engaged and hungry for knowledge as we went through an assessment, goals, and an appropriate treatment plan for Sheng Sheng. Alison translated what we were seeing and saying as I watched in awe of the artistic beauty of hand written Chinese across a P.T. evaluation. I learned later from Alison what we had done with the therapy techs in the welfare center was a first.

Where there is hope… There is possibility.

We spent every day within the welfare center and ICC facilities during our two weeks in China except one. I never dreamed the depth of the problem would be revealed during a walk in the park. We piled our team, some of the Chinese caregivers, and lots and lots of strollers for the non-ambulatory kiddos into the ICC bus. We arrived and unloaded. By this time our group of tall and lanky Westerners was quite used to being stared at, but today was different.

Sue, Me, and Group at Park
The looks we received from others in the park were ones of shock, dismay, and disgust. The confusion and discontent of seeing a group of disabled children out at the park was palpable. For the first time, I felt in my gut what was being described to me as the societal stigma and prejudice against the disabled. I thought of how Jesus must have felt when he was asked, “Why do you spend your time with the worthless and unlovable of our society?”

The message of Christ was played out in some small way that day in the park. Captured in the life of Christ was his movement not just his words. He did not just say there is a spiritual law that governs the consciousness of your society by loving the least of these…
He loved them.

We had the divine opportunity to increase awareness and soften hearts that day in the park. He does show up when we follow him. I have never felt closer to God than on that day, and again I received much more than I had given.

Here is a poem that illustrates a portion of what I have been given.

 My heart is swollen tight to the point of breaking
While yours is empty and open, ready for taking.
My eyes fill with confused and stinging tears
While your eyes show no sign of earthly fears.
The enormous lump in my throat makes it hard to speak
While your laughter fills the room with giggles and squeaks.
My mind is overwhelmed with your grinding need
While yours is calm, uncluttered with desires to succeed.
My ears recoil from the chaos and shrill
While yours withdraw to a place of silence and still.

Boy in standing frame. Tender touch
My soul aches for what you do not have
While your spirit soars free, joyful, and glad.
Are you simply unaware? Not knowing what you lack.
Or is it me, as I play judge of a life that’s intact.
Who is rich here, and who is poor?
My child you have redefined what it is to have more.
You live off a strength I fear never to understand
As you bless me again...
...With the tender touch of your hand.

Michele Zink Harris
Hengyang, China 2010

Your thoughts always keep me going...