Have you ever felt sorry for yourself and depressed because you've had an injury or an upset, and wondered why it happened to you and not someone else? Does the sight of someone with a disability, physical or mental, make you want to cross the road to avoid making contact with them? Well, I guess that in some ways you will realise that you are not alone. Perhaps you hide behind that rationale. But if there was ever an event that should jolt you back to reality, it has to be the paralympics.
Frankly, it doesn't matter whether you are interested in sport or not. Just looking at these incredible human beings participate in events with the same or, dare I say, even more determination than able-bodied athletes really brings ones own incredibly fortunate life into perspective. Swimmers competing with no arms, runners with no legs, the blind guided by able bodied athletes on a running track or a velodrome, horsemen and women with cerebral palsy ... the list goes on and on. Some with disabilities since birth, others with problems created through accident or war injuries, or just plain old fashioned bad luck.
Hong Kong's own particpants in these games are acquitting themselves well, but they also bring home a message - improvements could be made to encourage sport for people who are not able-bodied, and it is something that would be a worthwhile use of taxpayer funds. And as an aside, much credit in Britain has been given to the role of Riding for the Disabled (RDA) in the success of the British Paralympic Equestrian team - something that Hong Kong's very own RDA, funded by the Jockey Club and which has been in existence for over 30 years must view with interest, and hope.
These are all people who, through a mixture of grit, determination and sheer bloody-mindedness do not see themselves as needing sympathy and special treatment but who want to live as natural a life as possible - sometimes appearing to do things outside the bounds of possibility. With all the emotions of joy and despair associated with winning and losing - and with the good humour of great people. And a message. They want to be a positive example to others who might otherwise despair of life. They want to be an encouragement and bring a different perspective to life.
Perspective. Do the paralympians see themselves as being inferior, or unlucky? You bet they don't. They do more ... much more than many of the rest of us in setting an example about how to manage with the hand that life deals them.
It was a lesson I learnt early on in my life at a school rugby match. One of our players was badly injured and had to be flown from Dover to Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire, Britain's foremost hospital for the treatment of spinal injuries. He had broken his neck. Some weeks later I went to visit him in hospital where he was still unable to move any of his limbs, and sympathised with his predicament. HIs immediate response? "Look around you", he said, "there are many more people in here in a worse situation than me, so really I am pretty lucky".
So, next time something hurts or you are depressed over something, keep it in perspective, and recognise that there are always people worse off than you.