Springs of Joy: Different but not less PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 23 September 2011 15:26

BY Jane dela Cruz Bascar

Two weeks ago, I was forced to stay in bed as I found myself down with what must have been my worst bout with tonsillitis in years. Unable to do much, I settled for watching movies on HBO and surprisingly got hooked on one which I never expected to like but ended up moved by.

Yes, I was prepared to dislike it. Tell me, who’d get thrilled over a movie title like Temple Grandin? Talk about judging a movie by its title, but that I did. I certainly never meant to sit through and watch the whole production. What gave me pause however were the film’s lead actors: Julia Ormond and Claire Danes. Their presence stirred my curiosity. It wasn’t long into the movie that I discovered this was the true story of an autistic child, Temple Grandin, whose mother wouldn’t let autism railroad her child’s chances of a normal and even successful life. Tooth and nail, Mrs. Grandin fought to make sure her child would grow up as normally as she could, sending her first to a boarding school and then eventually to college. So strong was Mrs. Grandin’s unshakable belief that Temple deserved and could live a life as close to normal as possible and to achieve everything the latter wanted that eventually, Temple herself believed it. To make a long story short, unbelievably, Temple not only finished college but went all the way to obtain her PhD in Animal Science from the University of Illinois in 1989. She became a professional designer of humane livestock facilities making revolutionary shifts in the cattle industry. Her grit and perseverance served her well. Following the advice of a caring mentor, Temple took every twist and turn, every obstacle in her path as a door which she only needed to be brave enough to push open and walk through to find herself in another world just waiting for her to explore and conquer. Sometimes it helped if there were others who’d open the door for her and hold them open while she walked through.

There were many inspiring and moving scenes in the movie, but one unforgettable moment for me was when Temple’s mom fought to convince the school authorities to allow Temple admission insisting that Temple was different but not less. It was the first time I heard anyone describe children beset with these challenges so appropriately. This had a profound effect on me as I realized that contrary to what Temple’s mom was insisting, our collective tendency is to do the exact opposite. We often lump together people who are mentally challenged and “the differently –abled” regarding them to be less than we are. At our cruelest, we even make fun of them and label them abnormal or retardates.

If we could take the lesson the movie offers, we would see how we can never predict nor limit the heights of success that any person can reach regardless of how different he may appear from us. We would also see that each one of us brings to life our own unique set of gifts and abilities and that although our packaging may be different, we are all equals. Our individual differences, no matter what they are, never make us less than anyone else.

Temple’s story is also a testament to the power of love – that if you have but one soul on earth who believes in you and your potentials as deeply as Temple’s mom did and who’d stop at nothing to make you believe it and to ensure you get all the breaks and opportunities you deserve and that you take them, greatness would be a given.

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