Extraordinary children

A few evenings ago, I stumbled upon a video on YouTube about a remarkable boy. This boy’s name was Sam Berns. He suffered from a very rare and somewhat interesting disease known as Progeria.

Progeria is a genetic disorder where symptoms of aging occur at a rapid pace, from a very early age. This results in young children looking older than their parents. There are only a few people in the world with this disease.

Unfortunately, these people die at a very early age. They also have to live with the symptoms of being an elderly person. Imagine losing your teeth, your hair and your bone density when you are only a child!

The movie called The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (one of my favourite movies of all time), which depicts a seventy-year-old man aging backwards, is inspired by Progeria.

Interestingly enough, some of my friends were well-acquainted with a young man in South Africa who suffered from Progeria. If you are familiar with the band Die Antwoord, you may have seen the music video for their track called “Enter the Ninja”. This specific music video features Leon Botha – a very talented local artist and DJ, who unfortunately passed away from Progeria in 2011.

Now, getting back to the YouTube video of Sam Berns.

Sam was a truly remarkable boy. Despite knowing that he was not going to live a full and healthy life, and despite having terrible physical symptoms, he was still able to make the most out of his life.

The tear-jerking video, titled “My philosophy for a happy life”, talks about what Sam perceives to be a recipe for happiness.

Sam’s philosophy for a happy life:

  1. Be okay with what you ultimately can’t do, because there is so much you can do.
  2. Surround yourself with people you want to be around.
  3. Keep moving forward.
  4. Never miss a party if you can help it.

You may also be interested in the documentary called Life According to Sam, which sheds light on Sam’s experiences, and reveals how his amazing family fought so hard to save him. Sam’s incredible family also made huge contributions to Progeria research.

Sam is one of the most inspiring children I have ever seen. He is one of many children suffering from a rare disease that affects physical appearance. Progeria is but one of these diseases. Unfortunately, Progeria is also a disease with a low life expectancy.

I went on to watch videos about other extraordinary children who are inspiring and influential, despite horrendous odds. One child was born without a face. Another child was burnt in a fire – almost to death.

What occurred to me is that these children, who may look different on the outside, are just ordinary children on the inside. Children who look different, or even scary to some, are just as human as you and I. In fact, in many cases, I have seen more humanity in these beautiful children than I have seen in many fully functional children and adults.

When I heard these children speak and play, I was amazed at how special they are. They are beautiful people with big hearts.

I realised that when children look disfigured on the outside, they are not the ones who are uncomfortable. They are not the ones who make the situation awkward. It is everyone else that is uncomfortable. These kids are essentially just children.

It is our discomfort that we need to deal with. When someone looks different on the outside, no matter what feelings of uneasiness they may conjure up in us, we should all try to see the person behind the face or body.

It takes an extraordinary type of person to work with children who are special and different. If you study child care and pursue this as a career path, you may be fortunate enough to meet some special children just like Sam. When and if this happens, you should consider yourself extremely honoured. We can learn so much from these children.

Changing the world

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” – John Bunyan

Today I have been thinking about a story I once heard when I was younger. I could not quite remember it, but I knew what to search for. Thanks to my very good friend Google, I was able to find the original story. I would like to share it with you:

 

One day, a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?” The young boy replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I do not throw them back, they will die.”

“Son”, the man said, “Don’t you realise there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You cannot make a difference!”

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the ocean. Then, smiling at the man, he said,
“I made a difference for that one.”
– Loren Eisley

 

This story tugged at my emotions and made me realise that it does not matter who you are or what your situation is – you can always make a difference in someone’s life. Even though you cannot save the whole world, you can make a difference to the world of one person.

 
I thought about these quotes from famous people:

“To make a difference in someone’s life, you don’t have to be brilliant, beautiful or smart. You just need to care.”– Mandy Hale

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”– Leo Buscaglia

 

You may not have millions to donate to charity, or the time to volunteer at shelters or old age homes, but you can smile at a stranger, hug an elderly person, adopt an animal, or give your lunch to a child living on the street. You may not even realise how big a difference you made in that person or animal’s life, because you never know the circumstances of each individual. Something as simple as a smile or hug could change their lives completely. We have the power to do so much more than we know.

 

Thomas Merton said: “Our job is to love others without stopping to enquire whether or not they are worthy”.

 

These words hold so much truth. The secret is to love beyond measure. Not just your family, friends or yourself, but also the dirty stranger you walk past in the streets, the boy you see on the bus, the lonely old man in the grocery store, the woman crying in the library, and the child staring at the clouds.

 

Our love should extend even further – to the animals. Not just the attractive pedigree dogs and cats, but even the ones running in the streets, the ones without homes, the sick ones, and the ones who stand little chance of surviving. There is one thing that I have learned from an animal. They do not stop to enquire whether or not we are worthy of their love – they just love us unconditionally. We can certainly learn from them. Every life matters!

 

Today I urge you to be that person, because you are capable of changing someone’s world. Even if it is just one smile at a time…

*T*

Our prime purpose in life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them.