A very special email from a reader, I thought of sharing with all of you. Beautifully capturing my feelings on the matter.
(reprinted with permission)
Dear Mr Brown,
I read your commentary in this morning's edition of Today of the 'plight' of your Orange Fish.
Let me share with you a similar incident I experience with my own little star.
I decided to enrol Lucas, my 7-year-old son who has autism, in the Very Special Arts camp held in June this year. At the end of the 3-day camp, the various groups put up performances in the concert. As Lucas' group spilled onto stage to begin their dance, Lucas, who is fascinated by the stage lights & speakers, immediately went to the front centre of the stage and started laughing and clapping. Every parent on the floor was of course looking out for their child and they began waving and cheering. My politician-to-be little boy immediately waved back at all of them.
He took centrestage literally, as the rest of his group mates danced behind and around him. Kind of reminded me of the old Indian movies where the actors danced around the trees.
I'm sure that many of the other parents there that day would not remember him by now, as being parents that we are, we search for our own little stars, often paying very little attention to the others around. But to me, Lucas was THE STAR - my star.
Lucas attends a regular day care centre in the mornings before going to special school in the afternoon, and has been there for the past 4 years. This year will be his last. He progresses year-on-year with his classmates, so while academically, he is at nursery level, officially, he is in Kindergarten 2. His classmates are younger than him by an average of 2 years.
Each year, the centre puts up its year-end concert. Each year, I get emotionally overwhelmed when I watch him on stage. One year, he was a carrot. On another, he became a stingray. I wonder what he will be this year. His classmates would have been 'tasked' beforehand to make sure he keeps up with the group.
On a daily basis, I have witnessed the care and assistance many of his friends at day care have extended to Lucas. The principal and teachers at Milk & Honey have done a fabulous job in instilling the value of respect in their pupils. I'm hopeful that they will grow up with the right attitude towards people with special needs and spread it to the other people they come into contact with.
So perhaps it's not about a CD-Rom or a website or any other detached forms of 'learning', but opportunities to interact with these exceptional people. In their own way, they can teach many things that a school syllabus or a textbook can't.
As for Faith, I think she is more than just a sweet little girl in a fish costume. As a 'fish out of the water', she has the incredible ability to survive in uncertain (and often unkind) environments.
Let's see if the rest can do as well as people like Lucas and Faith.