I grabbed a hand-woven piece and read its serial number out loud to Lucy so that she could note down the stock. It wasn’t easy when there was so much information on the label. Lucy bobbed her head up. Adjusting her glasses, she looked at the basket I was struggling with.
Nodding, she recited the whole serial number to me, that bought me time to catch up with her on the next few items. She was one fast middle-aged lady!
And a one-woman show for the eco-basket project!
Although it is so easy for a busy woman like Lucy to get cranky from exhaustion, or maybe even big-headed for being so indispensable, she doesn’t behave this way at all. She just does her tasks, smiles at young interns like me who make mistakes in front of her, and excitedly tells you stories from her past (and maybe offer you salt-sprinkled oranges for lunch).
The woman speaking to crowds at SLE events and eco-basket exhibitions, the woman confidently delivering her story in the 'Portraits of Perseverance' documentary, the woman dedicated to volunteer work that she’s passionate about – a few years ago, that woman was in a shell, shy and passive.
The turning point in Lucy's life happened, because of a fellow Lupus patient – her close friend, Justina Low Yew Lee.
Due to his upbringing in an English-speaking home, he found it difficult to learn Chinese language. His Chinese language teacher would pick on his Chinese language homework, telling the whole class how he had ugly handwriting and that he was not as "smart" as the rest.
I don't know if the teacher did what she did intentionally, but the impact on her students was made. Many of his classmates repeated the teacher's insults on him, poked fun at him, and refused to play with him. For a boy who was barely eight, the continuous bullying from both his classmates and his teacher reduced his self-confidence.
From a child who seemed to take the sunshine with him everywhere he went, who could play with action figures, make up his own clever role play scripts, and name several species of dinosaurs from the top of his head - the bullies in school made him a sullen and sheepish individual, too shy to speak up.
I'm not directing this at Chinese school teachers, because I have had the privilege of having strict but loving and tactful ones. The teachers he had obviously weren't meant to be teachers.
Although the story has a happy ending (he grew up to be a successful individual, with a sense of humour), it's sad how some events in our life can change a person for the worse.
A loved one’s death is never an easy thing to deal with, especially if it’s sudden. Having someone close to you - laughing with you, involved in your life actively and making plans with you one moment - and then, losing her for good in the next moment...
When you finally realize that you wouldn’t have the chance to do the things that you've been planning to do with her anymore - it would be a harsh blow to anyone.
This new perspective of life saw her traveling on a boat in Cambodia with the documentary team, making new friends at an international conference, speaking at SLE events, learning to be a group leader in the eco-basket project, telling her story to the world through the "Portraits of Perseverance" documentary, befriending other strong women figures, and impacting more lives through her passion for volunteer work.
|Lucy - with some of the eco baskets - flashing a winning smile.|
“Life is so short,” has become Lucy’s new life motto.
|Photography by Wang Junmey|
We're only human. Experiences can bring us down.
As cliché as this may sound, what I've learned from Lucy these few months is, it’s alright to fall, it’s alright if you don’t handle these hard times perfectly and it’s alright to be brought down, as long as you find a way to get back on your feet and overcome adversity. Don't let it drag you down and change your positive outlook of life.
We only have so many days. So, live.