What I Learned from a Girl with No Hands and Her Father
The subway train’s door opened in front of me. I walked towards an empty chair. It would be only 3 stops to Singapore Botanic Garden.
As I settled into the seat, I glanced to my right: a man stood to face a blue trolley.
I saw this every day in Singapore: parents ride the subway with their kids tucked neatly in little trolleys.
But this time, something was different. I drew a deep breath, not knowing what to feel.
The baby girl, around 3-year-old, had no hands. Her tiny arms reminded me of matchsticks or tiny tree trunks that somehow forgot to grow branches.
The skin on her face, even though without wounds, resembled the face of someone who survived a fire accident.
But she didn’t look like she was afraid, or hurt, or sad, or tired. She was dressed in a pink shirt and matching trousers. She smiled at her dad. He was about 30, thin and tall, wore a black t-shirt and simple blue jeans.
They both looked so happy!
The dad squatted down to talk to his baby while she babbled back cheerfully.
With his hands, he caressed the back of her head. He kissed her forehead and nose. She giggled, waved her two arms in circles in the air - with no hands.
Her dad kept talking to her and kissing her. At one point, the baby laughed aloud, like a small bird sings in sunrise.
I felt a lump in my throat and a stirring in my chest.
The most magical thing I saw was how the dad looked at his baby.
He had twinkles in his eyes. He looked at her as if she wasn’t wounded, as if she was perfect in every single way.
When I left the train, my heart ached with the beauty of that encounter.
The girl without hands reached for the one she loved, received kisses, and hold onto hope with more courage than many of us who carry the unimaginable luxury of having 10 fingers.
As I took a slow walk among the old trees of Botanic Garden, the late afternoon sun poured a golden glow on my skin.
I thought: “The sun always shines on me, no matter how crazy or broken or wounded I thought I was.”
The sun shined on me the same way the dad of the girl with no hands looked at his baby.
As if to whisper: “You’re brave. You’re strong. You’re beautiful. And everything is going to be okay.”
I want to look at myself through that eyes too. Even if I have no hands, even if I’m different, even if I get hurt and go through hell and come out on the other side with scars and losses.
Because the way we see ourselves influence the way we show up in life.
If we see ourselves as a poor little victim of life, we’ll blame others, make excuses for ourselves, shrink into a little ball, hidden from the world, waiting to be rescued.
If we see ourselves as the hero of our story - like any good story: full of challenges, trials, triumph, and learning - we’ll crack puzzles, solve problems, fall down, learn, get up, take leaps, keep our heart open for love, and eyes open for beauty.
It’s a choice that defines who we become.
Somewhere in the nights and days at the hospital, I think the dad of the little girl with no hands made that choice.
And I guess he makes that choice again every day, every moment when he looks at his little girl.
Perhaps that’s the choice we can make every time we see ourselves in the mirror.