Monday, September 11, 2017

FINDING HAPPINESS AGAINST THE ODDS, by Wesley Wee

ISBN: 9789811139307
Published: June 2017
Buy the book


PROLOGUE: Many people think because people with cerebral palsy have disability and slurred speech, we have cognitive impairments too This is a big misconception, I can assure you. Many people who have cerebral palsy are very mentally capable. We are often smart, funny, creative, and loving just like anyone else. The only difference is that we are trapped inside bodies we have little control over.

Finding Happiness Against the Odds, by Wesley Wee, is a heartbreaking read but also heartwarming at the same time. It's not a long book—only 56 pages—but a book that took him five years to write using his toes tapping slowly on the keyboard. I found out about Wesley's book from a post shared on Facebook by the Singapore Writers Festival. 

Wesley Wee was born with cerebral palsy. In this book, he shares not only the extreme difficulties of having to deal with the physical challenges that this disability brings, but he also had to endure a childhood filled with abuse from his own parents. His siblings ignored him. His parents often took their frustrations out on him and would not provide what a severely disabled child like Wesley would need: the love, support, and affection from them. The only person who loved him was his grandmother—she was his guardian angel. Living with his grandmother is so different than that of living with his parents.

We lived a simple life but I was happy when I was with her. She would cook so much food that we always had plenty to eat. I was never hungry when I stayed with her. I can recall some of my favorite dishes that she would cook or bake—chapchai (mixed vegetable),  curry chicken, tau yu bak (braised pork belly in soy sauce) and pineapple tarts.

Wesley also proves even being imprisoned in a body he had so little control over, he could still succeed at something and be productive, which reinforced his desire to be more independent in spite of his disability. He talks a lot about God. One may wonder or ask why a loving God would allow anyone to suffer like this, but Wesley never doubted Him. 

I guess that this was when I really had started to want to know more about God. The God I had spoken to as a child, whenever I was lying in bed bruised and bloody after being beaten by my parents, was the same God who now told me things were going to be okay. He was the same God I prayed to when I wanted to take my life, but He did not let me die as He had other plans for me.

Because of his disability, Wesley often smell bad as he was not able to clean himself well. With perseverance,  he finally figured out safer and more effective ways to clean himself although it was still physically exhausting for him. Please consider what Wesley is saying:

So think before you call someone smelly, and take the time to reflect on their circumstances. No one wants to smell badly or be avoided because they do. Everyone wants to feel accepted. Try to see past outward appearances to the person underneath.

Although Wesley does not have a family who loves him or want to look after him, he says he was blessed with friends and God has placed helping hands in his life. These people came and went but they always come at the time he needed them most at the various low and high points in his life. Those moments reminded him that he must not  give up and he needed to find something to provide for himself. So he got himself a job. He started selling tissues and even that was challenging as he had to struggle with licensing, work environment (heat and rain), and hostility from other street sellers.

Wesley hit rock bottom many times even to the point of taking his life; he had attempted suicide a few times. Somehow, he managed to pick himself up and turned to God in prayer. He keeps encountering hurdles at every turn but he persevered. He has joy, sadness, excitement, and his belief in God.

The happiest day of his life was his wedding day. He met his wife, Lorena, online through a Filipino friend. Their relationship developed rapidly and it was very courageous of him to travel out of Singapore to meet her. I teared up as I read how differently her family in the Philippines treated and cared for him. Wesley had wanted to stay in Singapore so Lorena followed him. Before they were married, they faced many challenges too. They had nowhere to stay in Singapore. His mother had completely ignored him so he had no place to go home to. They were living on the streets and even if they found lodging, it was temporary. It was a desperate situation. They prayed earnestly and God answered their prayer! More about this in the book.

Also included in the book are the stories of Wesley’s wife from her perspective about their life together, and of her daughter's. In the words of Lorena’s 10-year-old daughter, “Pain can really turn you into something you won’t expect. It gives you a strong will to survive even in the midst of suffering such a severe disability.”

From Wesley I saw the positive and determined spirit that never gives up. I realized how blessed I am to be a whole, healthy person, and how wonderful it is to have a loving family. I learned to appreciate what I have. To me, Wesley is an overcomer and an inspiration!

About the book cover: The photography was taken in Coney Island. He met a lot of good people while selling tissues and a few of them became his friends. Some of them helped him with the publishing of this book. They spent a lot of time together having dinner, working on the book for hours. You can lend a helping hand by buying the book!