Eugene screams at me, drags me around and beats me up too. But I still love him.
You see, Eugene is not normal like you and I are. He is intellectually disabled. I first met him whilst volunteering at an organization helping the intellectually disabled. Since then, we’ve stuck.
As a new volunteer, handling Eugene was one of my greatest challenges. He would always drag me out of the centre, mumbling, “Walk, walk, walk.” and begrudgingly, I would oblige. When I didn’t feel like I was in the mood to walk, I would give a flat “No!” but he would run out, and I would have to chase him, and we ended up walking again.
Other times, he would keep calling out for his “papa” and try to find him in every corner of the neighbourhood. I would then have to look for his “papa” with him, whilst constantly reminding him that his “papa” was coming soon.
Taking care of Eugene is no easy feat. It’s hard not to get frustrated. After all, we are but volunteers who are putting aside our time to help. Why put ourselves through such difficulties? But one incident changed my perception of him.
It was the Annual Camp for the Intellectually Disabled. The night before, I had only managed to sleep at 5am. Groggy with sleep, I was tasked again to take care of Eugene during the camp.
When the camp started, Eugene started having to answer many calls from nature. But each time we went to the washroom, it seemed as though nature had given him yet another missed call. I was naturally irritated. Throughout the day, Eugene decided to be particularly uncooperative, rarely sitting through any activities and frequently running away, making me chase him thoughout the compound.
Finally, the day ended. Being new, I didn’t expect to help the trainees to bathe. However, passing them the soap didn’t seem to elicit any sort of response. It was time to help.
It was hard not to feel irked giving them a good rubdown. Eugene stood there silently, and that was the quietest I had seen him the whole day. He seemed to be trying his best to cooperate.
In retrospect, being in such an “intimate” setting with Eugene changed my attitudes towards him, and volunteering.
Simple things that we took for granted, such as bathing, were activities that Eugene faced much difficulty with. Daily, I complained about how hard juggling studies and CCA was. I had failed to be appreciative for the chance to study, or to even play sports.
Sometimes, I think that whatever we do is entirely useless. The art and craft, the outings… they don’t seem to spur any change in our trainees.
But I realize that far and above that, it’s about spending time with this special group of people, who are all too often spurned by society.
Why do we bother to do so much for a group of clients that bear no blood relation to us? I guess the answer is love. Just as people like us deserve the right to be loved, Eugene also has the right to be loved. He may be special, but is that reason for society to abandon him?
After all, Eugene didn’t ask to be born this way.