Photo by Ng Shey Ying
In one of the families that I visit with Tzu Chi volunteers, the elder brother, Ah Da has struggled with schizophrenia since a young age. Ah Da is 45 years old this year, and he requires long term medication to keep his condition under control. The younger brother, Ah Ming is deaf and mute since childhood, and the only source of confidence came from his ability to work to financially support his family.
Every member of this family puts up a tough front when facing others. Even though we visit them every month, I still feel that I have to exercise caution whenever I interact with them. It seems that they have yet to completely open themselves up to outsiders. Volunteers have to make visit arrangements based on their routine and be very cautious when talking with them.
In late 2015, Ah Ming was seriously injured in a motor accident. Not only were his ribs broken, he also suffered retinal detachment in his right eye, which greatly affected the sight of this eye. The damage to his vision worried and upset him.
The sudden tragedy caught the family off guard, impacting Ah Ming the most, especially when his injuries prevented him from working. Now, the entire family relies on the income of the elder sister, who works as an art teacher, with partial assistance from the NCSS.
I remember that during one of our visits, Ah Da suddenly came to us, held our hands, and then said with hopeful eyes, “Please pray for us!”
He was deeply worried about his brother’s condition. Knowing that the family is Christian, I cautiously asked, “But we are Buddhists, are you okay with that?”
“It’s the same, it’s the same …” he replied.
Without further ado, he closed his eyes and held our hands, and started praying for his brother. The difference in our religions was not a concern to him at all.
Ah Da is a mental patient who has to take 25 pills daily for his condition. Despite being mentally challenged, he has the pure, simple innocence of a child and is very kindhearted. In his eyes, the spirit of Great Love has no boundary and does not discriminate on race or religion.
While we were praying, I inadvertently turned around and saw Ah Ming sobbing quietly behind us. Deeply touched by his brother’s concern for him, he could not hold back his tears.
Feeling for Ah Ming, I walked towards him and held his hands, gently telling him not to worry as Tzu Chi would always be there for him. I was worried that my message did not get through (as he cannot hear), so I signed the words “be at ease and happy” with my hands. He understood what I meant and nodded profusely.
When we cannot hear the sorrow in a person’s heart or see the tears in his eyes, we may forget the pain that is buried deep inside him. Very often, there are many factors that prevent us from seeing what is truly happening. We are often blinded by worldly values, and tend to judge the situation of others presumptively.
At that moment, I was struck by the realisation that if we missed the opportunity to connect with a person’s heart, the latter would perhaps never open up to us again.
“If it were not for their great wisdom, great compassion and great courage, they would not have embraced (the suffering) living beings……” As I listened to this line from the (Chinese) song titled, “Embracing Living Beings”, I felt quite ashamed as I had yet to completely understand and feel Master Cheng Yen’s compassionate love for all in the world.
In the spirit of Great Love, people give of themselves to help others in need in society. This is also how one shows love and respect for life. Hence, shouldn’t we, as home visit volunteers, often reflect on ourselves and ask whether we are still persevering in our initial passion for charity, or have our hearts become numb (towards the suffering and pain of others)?
I sincerely hope that one day, the tears from Ah Ming would be those of joy, and that his tears and heartfelt voices would be seen and heard.