Seeing beyond


London to Ho Chi Minh by train (and boat!). Day 56

Up in the clouds, you can only see a few steps ahead. There is nothing to let you know you’re going in the right direction, and yet you trust that the path leads to where you are going.

While traveling, we’re lucky enough to be able to take pleasure in living each day as it comes. We can enjoy the thrill of not knowing what lies ahead because we are certain that even if everything goes terribly wrong, we can return to a home that provides everything we could ever need… Because we are privileged.

But there are so many people who don’t have that privilege. Walking through Chinese cities, I’ve been struck by the number of street vendors and performers who are living with disabilities. Many are peddling plastic tack to Chinese tourists, others (often blind) are led around by family members while playing instruments. Some simply play music on a stereo while holding a microphone as this is as much as their condition will allow.

In all cases, these people are humiliated publicly for being less physically able than others. And they have no choice… In order to survive, this is what they must do. Each individual has their own hopes and dreams but I’m pretty sure that performing for the public is not one of them. And each day, they fall asleep knowing that there is no protection, no safety net, no alternative. Fairy godmothers here are state controlled and don’t take requests from people whose bodies and minds don’t function perfectly.

It’s shocking that government funding will pay for millions of trees and flowers and road sweepers for highways in the middle of nowhere rather than invest in the dignity of these people. And this isn’t just China… I remember feeling similarly shocked in the US at the number of homeless people who were suffering with mental health conditions. Nations will be judged by how they treated their most vulnerable.

I’m so proud to have grown up with a strong welfare state that seeks to give all people every opportunity this life offers. I hope that one day, all people everywhere will go to sleep at night knowing that tomorrow will be another chance to thrive.

Next stop: Yangshuo – Zhangjiajie

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