Monday, November 30, 2009

What Happens To Them?

Went to watch Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey in it wif my movie kaki - Michelle. Verdict? Somewhat, though not totally, lame. Humour misplaced. Somehow Jim Carrey has to add these little quirks to make things 'funny' but after a while, they just get annoying.

One part of the movie was really good though. You know that, in the story that Charles Dickens wrote, the Ghost of Christmas Present pulls aside his robe, and concealed in his robes are two wretched children, so disfigured by misery and suffering that they hardly look human? The boy is called 'Ignorance' and the girl is called 'Want'?

In this Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey, the boy 'Ignorance' spins round and becomes an adult man coming at him with a knife (meant to personify a criminal) and roars, "Are there no prisons?" mockingly towards Scrooge before prison bars fall around him, caging him in.

And the girl 'Want' spins round and becomes an adult woman dressed provocatively (meant to peronify a prostitute) and she also mockingly jeers, "Are there no workhouses?" before laughing hysterically, and wound in a straitjacket, ends up in a mental institution.

That really caught my attention. It brought to my memory something which I had read before. Remember the shelter that I visited in Cambodia for child prostitutes? Well, the lady who started the centre called AFESIP said that, sometimes, by the time they rescue the children, the children have lost their minds because of the torment and torture they've gone through. The children can be 8, 9, 10 years old by the time they're rescued, but they'd already spent a few years being raped repeatedly day after day, and by the time they came in to the shelter, they didn't make sense.

All the children could do was give sweet, but empty smiles. When they talk, the words don't add up. They've lost all reason. Truly, what Jim Carrey personified, is what is in their future when they're too old to be taken care of in this shelter, which after all, is only to rehabilitate child prostitutes until they are old enough to work.

As for what the movie showed happening to the boy - well, today I was reading this article :- http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=2&aid=173876

It's about kids who have 'aged-out' of the foster care system. At 18 years old, the Government assumes these kids are 'adults' and they are no longer taken care of as foster kids. What happens to them then? Shockingly, the report said, in America, within 2 years of ageing out of the system, 25% end up in prison. 20% end up homeless.

Are you surprised? Shocked? Why should you be? Our kids in Malaysia still stay at home with Mummy and Daddy at 18 years old and receive allowances. These are kids who don't have any foundation of love, nurturing and support thrown out onto the streets at 18 to start their adult lives and expected to live them right.

Still so many kids on this road of hopelessness... what can we do to make a difference? And do we even care?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Put-downs

There is a Christian teenage book that I have that's a story about a girl who goes to a youth group where the leader seems to make a lot of put-downs and the whole atmosphere of the youth group seems to be about out-smarting someone else by putting him/her down more than she can put you.

Of course in the end, the youth leader repents and everyone takes a pledge to watch their language and behave in a godly way. Honestly, I found the youth group scenes so distasteful that I don't pick up that book as much as other books. It made me cringe to read about how hurt the youths were when other youths hurled insults at them in the name of 'fun'.

But here's the funny thing... I realised that amongst some of the youth groups in M'sia, there is this culture of 'put each other down'. Normally the older ones are the most practised at doing it, so it's considered 'smart', it's considered 'funny' and it's the 'popular' thing to do.

I guess I find it uncomfortable because I learnt something totally different. When I was in CHC Singapore, we were taught to encourage each other. We would write notes, letters, call each other etc.

Putting each other down with our words was not encouraged at all - in fact, you could get hauled up pretty sternly for doing that!

When I returned to Malaysia, I soon got used to the fact that the 'encourage each other' thing was not a popular practise in Malaysia. That was fine with me; I mean, we are more reserved, right? Different country, different culture. No problem.

But put each other down instead? I couldn't wrap my head around that one. Where did the principle of 'love one another' fall in with 'insult one another'?

I could certainly understand if the teasing is interspersed with moments of encouragement - and caution was taken to see that one didn't go too far. But I didn't see that. I saw defensive walls being put up and younger ones learning to be as quick and as hurtful as the older ones in order to survive the culture.

Soon I realised something... this wasn't a 'youth' problem, it was an 'everyone's problem. True, the adults didn't put each other down. Well, except for some.... but those are in the minority.

They still didn't practise the 'encourage each other' ... in fact, one lady in my church often gets praised for being encouraging. To me, it's not so much that she is encouraging (although she is) as much as compared to the DIScouragement of other people, the difference is so glaringly obvious!

But what I found instead in Malaysia was put-downs at other people. Put-downs towards the government, put-downs towards Christian leadership (sadly enough, yes, in some churches), put-downs towards bosses....

And I looked round and feel sad...

Slander is slander. I don't care if the slander is directed against a politician... to accuse someone by saying "He did it" without knowing FOR SURE he did it (and I don't care if all evidence points to that; if you didn't see it happen, you don't know if it DID happen) IS SLANDER. And since when did the Bible say, "Slander is okay if it is directed towards politicians"?

Is it MORE okay to be nasty towards your boss and bad-mouth him in front of your other church members when you yam cha just because he is a boss? Show me the passage that says, "Thou mayeth speak evil of thy boss simply because he is a boss", and I'll give you a nice, fat red packet!

When Hannah Yeoh came to our church and spoke about the nasty things said to her and spoken against her, I couldn't help but think, "That's normal for Malaysians." We've not learnt to guard our tongues, let alone be encouraging. Is this the way we Christians show ourselves to be salt and light to the world? By being just like everyone else, slandering and bad-mouthing and putting down and being discouraging?

Jesus said that the world would know that He is with us because we love one another. I don't know about you - but I think putting up walls so you won't get hurt by someone else's words is not the best way to learn to 'love one another'.

So perhaps the young people are just learning from the adults that put-downs are good, 'adult' and the in-thing to do. Or perhaps they're just following their peers. Whatever. At the age of youth, one has the mind of an adult and can think for himself.

The Bible tells us to control our tongues. Let's try this basic thing even as we aim to be the glorious bride, even as we say, "These are the last days and we need to shine in this world." Let's learn to guard unity in the Body of Christ. It is so important as the days get darker.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dear Ms. Mackenzie Phillips

Dear Ms. Mackenzie Phillips,

You don't know me, and I don't know you, but I've read your story. You and I will never cross paths; at least, I don't think so. So I'm just going to write these words to tell you what I think of you here on my blog, and maybe someday, some wind will blow these words across your path and, I hope, give you encouragement to go on.

I just want to say to you, Ms. Mackenzie, that you are brave. You are brave for coming out with your story of incest. You are brave to admit that in the end, you gave up, and seemingly 'consented' to it. You are brave to tell your story to the whole world so that everyone can know. You are so brave!

You are brave for daring to do this whilst your family is still around to say, "She is lying." You are brave to face a world of critical faces and pointing fingers who will sneer derisively, "She wanted it". You are brave to confront the memories and demons and nightmares of the past. You are so, so brave!

And I hope you will learn one day, that when you lift up the head that has been bowed in shame for so long, that the eyes watching you from the same person whose ears are listening to your story, are not filled with derision and disgust. I hope you see the acceptance and the sadness reflected in those eyes at a child's betrayal. I hope you hear gentle words of affirmation of the pain that you've gone through, and words to say that you are believed and will be supported through the days of healing.

I wish you strength to bear the cries of, "She's lying!" and "She asked for it!". I wish you comfort and peace when the memories rush in and beat at your mind until you scream for relief. I wish you the knowing that there are many like you who are caught in the same web of pain who are too ashamed to stand up and say, "That happened to me, and I need help because I don't know how to break free."

May your voice continue to resonate loud and strong to tell the world that, "This happens". May your voice carry so that other victims, other survivors can hear and look up in amazement that someone has finally spoken, and follow. May your voice cause governments and agencies, ministries and leaders to hear and form the policies that will protect the generations of children to come.

You are brave to be the first one to step out. God bless you, and I mean that with all my heart.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Holidays Again

It's that time of the year again.... Holidays with cheerful music playing in the background all the way through to Chinese New Year.

It's a really happy time of the year for many. I think I've mentioned a few times though that it can be a pretty lonely time for those who are from broken families.

Seeing happy families shopping together, and eating together, and just the whole 'family-orientation' of the holidays can be pretty tough to stomach. Despite all the resolutions to 'stand strong and stay positive', one's facade tends to crack during the long stretch of winter hols.

I remember once somebody saying to me cheerfully, "Well, stay busy and you won't have time to feel sad!"

I shot back, very truthfully, "I do! Why do you think I organize so many events with the orphanage kids during the holidays?"

Well, it's kinda harder this year because I've taken a sabbatical from my volunteer work and all 'other' work, really. Somehow I'm dreading the days ahead without enough activities to keep me from thinking or feeling too much.

I remember the song...

For every broken heart in need of mending
For every lonely child who needs befriending
For every time the innocent should ever need defending
That's why He came

That's why He came
For all the lost and lonely
That's why He came
For all the questions only love explains
And so that when we need Him
We can call upon His Name
That's why He came

That's why Jesus came... and that's why we celebrate Christmas. It's good to know and good to remember... It means so much more this holiday season than any other.

Codependency

Patterns and Characteristics of Codependence

These patterns and characteristics are offered as a tool to aid in self-evaluation. They may be particularly helpful to newcomers.

Denial Patterns:
I have difficulty identifying what I am feeling.
I minimize, alter or deny how I truly feel.
I perceive myself as completely unselfish and dedicated to the well being of others.


Low Self Esteem Patterns:
I have difficulty making decisions.
I judge everything I think, say or do harshly, as never "good enough."
I am embarrassed to receive recognition and praise or gifts.
I do not ask others to meet my needs or desires.
I value others' approval of my thinking, feelings and behavior over my own.
I do not perceive myself as a lovable or worthwhile person.


Compliance Patterns:
I compromise my own values and integrity to avoid rejection or others' anger.
I am very sensitive to how others are feeling and feel the same.
I am extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long.
I value others' opinions and feelings more than my own and am afraid to express differing opinions and feelings of my own.
I put aside my own interests and hobbies in order to do what others want.
I accept sex when I want love.


Control Patterns:
I believe most other people are incapable of taking care of themselves.
I attempt to convince others of what they "should" think and how they "truly" feel.
I become resentful when others will not let me help them.
I freely offer others advice and directions without being asked.
I lavish gifts and favors on those I care about.
I use sex to gain approval and acceptance.
I have to be "needed" in order to have a relationship with others.