Turn Stigma Into Stamina

A few years ago, I bumped into an old friend of mine while wandering around Art Gallery of New South Wales near Sydney Botanical Gardens. It would’ve been more than 10 years since we last spoke and I couldn’t think of a better place to run into someone than this airy space, decorated with brilliant art pieces in an ultra sterile, aesthetic setting. Couldn’t hide our excitement, we quickly proceeded to a nearby leather bench, sat down and started talking about life in general.

Contrary to the college environment where she used to work in the early 90’s when we first met, her latest job move – becoming a full-time personal carer – saw her a rise in wages as well as in satisfaction. It was a transformation that took me by surprise. After all, it was very different from the old job she’d done for years – a receptionist in the student counselling unit. Anyway, she seemed happy with her new career path so I didn’t show too much of concern. But what came as a real shock to me was the moment when she revealed chilling details on someone’s living conditions, a resident in one of affluent suburbs in Sydney. For privacy reason, she withheld all personal information and only touched on the key points anonymously. It was the first time that I heard first-hand about someone who’d been imprisoned by their own fears and never left their own home for 10 long years. Up to that point, I briefly peeked through the gallery and noticed the beautiful sunshine and blue sky outside. It was so uplifting and inviting. So much so, it was incomprehensible to think that someone affected by mental illness, on the other hand could do something to deprive of their own freedom and avoid going out altogether. This story was so impactful that it left me with a lingering thought: What can I do in my own little way to make the community we live in a kinder place?

Perhaps we can all start with people around us. Imagine, if we practice random acts of kindness and apply them to five people closer to us. If each of these five people also do the same and reach out to five people within their family or social circle, then that’s a five-fold increase in the number of people helped.

So, who are these five people in your life?

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