Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (June 14, 2018)
I don’t remember much about my higher primary years. I had just moved back from being in my favourite school of all time in London and had to move back to Hong Kong because of my dad’s work. I joined a school and those last two years at the primary school are a bit of a blur to me. I missed my old school and missed my old friends.
But there’s one thing that has stuck with me. There was a class that was for special needs students in my school and I went to help the class on a weekly basis. I also spent some of my recess breaks with students from that class. I remember how I was initially taken aback by how different they looked, how some of them had slurred speech and would take longer to do certain tasks. But as I got to know them, I enjoyed playing their simple games and appreciated their purity, innocence and transparency in expressing their emotions.
And now as I look back, I realized that since that point, I’ve kept my connection with children with special needs. From taking on my first internship to work with children with autism to now bringing my students to meet and help children with special needs, my early childhood experience has left a lifelong mark.
And so when I watched this movie ‘Distinction’, it really touched me. It’s a Hong Kong movie that is based on true events and touches on a range of themes and topics covering education, hope, family, pressure, acceptance and so much more.
The main characters in the film come together to put on a musical and the most interesting part is that it included students from a special needs school, students from a low banding school and also from an elite school. They first come together with misconceptions, prejudices and fears. But as they come to open their hearts and get to know each other, they learn to appreciate one another and it’s a beautiful transformation.
It’s so easy to grow up and go through life only meeting and getting to know people who are similar to us. It’s comfortable, it’s easy and it’s simple. But to get to know someone who is different, someone who we don’t understand, that takes a lot more love and effort. There’s one scene in the film where a girl with severe needs yanks the hair tie off the pony tail of the girl from the elite school, Zoey. At first, Zoey is taken aback but instead of getting mad, she watches the girl fiddle around with the hair tie on her head. She then realizes that the girl wanted to try tying her hair in a ponytail too and was curious about how to do it. Zoey walks over and helps the girl tie her hair up in a ponytail with her own hair tie and it’s a beautiful scene of empathy, understanding and acceptance.
If we can each take the time to reach out, empathise, reflect and accept, our world would be a much better place. And that would be a world of distinction.