So, how far do you go?

On New Year’s Day, Grandpa Zhou asked me something that made me think. “Are you going to buy food for me every Tuesday and Saturday?”

It stunned me. For a moment, I thought he was trying to pin me down, take advantage of me like so many people had warned me before. Then he said, “Tell me a time I can wait for you till before I know you won’t be coming because I’m just afraid sometimes I might have bought food for myself already, then I’ll be too full to accept yours if you do come.”

It made me think. How long do I intend to keep up with this, and how far am I willing to go? We’re going to see the doctor next Tuesday. Then what?

What on earth does it mean to love others deeply, the way God loves us? It is easy to love Strangers as a one-time effort- but for life? For every mile one goes for a Stranger, one should then be willing to go twice the mile for one’s family. Is it possible?

How far do you go? There’s only this much time and energy a mortal person has- how does one divide it and how far is too far?

It was my father’s 58th birthday yesterday. On my way home from the library, I thought of buying a cake. Mum and dad said not to though, as one of Dad’s clients would be delivering a good one this weekend. Yes, okay, forget about cake- Dad’s not really a birthday kind of person anyway… … Maybe I’ll draw him a card. Argh, exam in a few days and I’m short of time… Maybe I’ll buy one… it’s more convenient…

But Dad likes it when I draw him cards… …

And what’s a birthday without cake?

At that moment, my mind cleared- you do what love propels you to do. There is always an excuse, but Love is not convenient. Often, it is inconvenient.

Walking home from the train station, I see Grandpa Zhou huddled at a corner. It’s Thursday, he shouldn’t be here… I stop in my tracks. Aw man, if I stop to talk to him, he’ll expect me to buy him dinner… No, I shall resolve not to buy him dinner tonight. I resolve not to- I can’t be doing this forever, I don’t want him to be over-reliant on me. No, I will not, I will go home and celebrate Dad’s birthday. I can only take care of one old man per night so that’s that. I will say hi to Grandpa Zhou and then I will go home. I will buy him dinner on Saturday. YES.

Love is inconvenient. God never asked much from us, He only asked for us to love people as much as He loved us. How far do we go?

I reach home. And then I leave home again as soon as I reach it. This time, I resolve to buy Grandpa Zhou dinner, and there is a lightness in my heart.

He is surprised to see me. “You’re back! With food…! You really shouldn’t have ya…” I explain I cannot stay to chat this time as I’ll be having dinner with my family soon. But I ask him about the sandalwood oil and few sachets of chamomile tea I had given to him on new year’s day to help him with his insomnia, and chat for a while. I tell him we will go to the clinic on Tuesday night when it’s open.

Ni… ni hen you ai xin. Wo zhu ni xin xiang shi cheng, zhu ni cheng gong…( You… you have a kind heart. I wish you the very best for your future, that you may succeed in all things you do.)”
I don’t know what to say so I just smile. I wonder to myself how far I will go to love this old man, and mine back home, my own father.

“The oil and tea you gave me, it’s very expensive no?”

I chuckle. I wonder about the relativity of price. I don’t think he’s seen Crabtree and Evelyn teabags before.

At home, I surprise my two folks with two mini-cakes I have bought. It is a good, cosy celebration. Dad isn’t usually very expressive but this time, he says to me, “ Thanks for your special effort. I feel really good today.”

Those words mean a lot to me.

Just before he goes upstairs to his room, I give him a card I draw. Opening it, I watch him, grey with age, smiling the smile I only ever see twice a year. “ You drew this!” He is laughing by now at the picture I drew, laughing a laugh that I would not hear had I bought a ready-made card. Going up the stairs he says in an odd sing-song, “I am the happiest man in the world today, haha, Your old man… the happiest man in the world ha… …”

Two old men. Two different distances.

How far do we go? How far.

When I saw the smile on both their faces, all at once, it became clear.

That far.

We go as far as we want to- that far.

dedicated to all her readers and loved ones

Once upon a time, there was a Very Big Dragon named Two Thousand and Six and a very little girl named Anna.

The Very Big Dragon named Two Thousand and Six lived in the Big, Black Sea down below, while little Anna lived faraway on rainbow-coloured clouds in a place far above.

Two Thousand and Six was Very Bad, and Very Big.

Anna was, on the other hand, very small.

One day, Two Thousand and Six captured little Anna!

Two Thousand and Six was a Very Bad Dragon.

It captured little Anna, stole Anna’s very little mouth and hid it in the Big, Black Sea so she could not find it. This made little Anna very sad.

Little Anna set out to find her very little mouth! But the Big, Black Sea was so Very Dangerous and she was consumed by the Big waves.

But one day, Two Thousand and Seven came along.

Two Thousand and Seven was a Very Big Hand. It was even BIGGER than the Very Big, Bad Dragon named Two Thousand and Six.

It was Two Thousand and Seven that rescued little Anna!

Two Thousand and Seven helped little Anna find her mouth, and helped her to help others find it too.

Two Thousand and Seven helped her to draw a rainbow in the sky, and returned little Anna back to her home of rainbow-coloured clouds up above.

Two Thousand and Seven saved little Anna!

“Thank you Two Thousand and Seven!” she cried out.

It was Two Thousand and Seven that saved her life!

“You’re welcome, ” said Two Thousand and Seven. “I have a Very Good friend named Two Thousand and Eight and he will look after you from now on so Big, Bad Dragons won’t come and get you. You’ll be safe up here.”

Little Anna smiled, and returned home, back safely to her rainbow-coloured clouds up above, waiting for a Very Good Two Thousand and Eight to arrive.

The End

To all of you, thank you for walking this journey with her.

She would like to thank all of you who have sent her emails, messages and notes of encouragement, as well as all of you who visit this space.

Thank you for the little things- for reading, for leaving a note on this tagboard, or simply passing on this space to someone else to share her Story. She wants to hug you, even if she hasn’t met you before, because she wants to thank you for sending Two Thousand and Seven to save her.

It’s been a long year, from darkness to light, from a deep, deep valley to a mountain-top, and from blackness to light.

Thank you for being with her.

She would like to send you a hug because she knows so many of you sent secret angels to alert Two Thousand and Seven when she was captured so Two Thousand and Seven could come down and save her.

Special thanks to Jo, Ther, Lif, and TAM for your prayer and friendship when she was captured. She can never thank you enough.

To EK and A, for your love, support and encouragement. You changed her life since Kitesong.

To all the Angels she met in her White Place, for blessing and loving her inside-out.

To her family, for giving her a real Home to go back to.

To her Very Special and Big Hand, for saving her life, and for His Faithfulness.

To all of you, for being such a beautiful audience.

Thank you so much for saving her life.

She hopes that each of you may be blessed with a Very Good Two Thousand and Eight too.

She hopes you enjoyed reading her Full Story.

This is her gift to you.

Thank you.

May God bless your hearts always.

* To read the Full Story of Grandpa Zhou, click here.

I attended a wedding dinner last night at the Shangri-La Hotel. It was a very grand wedding- men were dressed in suits, and the women were clad in sequin-studded gowns, pursing their scarlet lips, trying to breathe under their corsets. They had faces caked with make-up. It was a very grand occasion and the golden chandeliers gave an air of added sophistication to the entire event. It was a very grand event.

I couldn’t sleep last night.

This evening, after dinner with my Complete family, I asked my father if I could go and visit Grandpa Zhou. “He seems all right, you know, ” Dad said, ” I saw him the other day at the train station too- you dont have to buy him dinner every week. You can’t save the world, you know, Jia. There’re too many of them.”

My parents have a heart of gold. They really do- but I sensed it was out of concern that I was being taken advantage of that Dad voiced his concern.

I explained that I had learnt Grandpa Zhou had been born with a disability on his right arm and both feet, and that recently, his feet had swelled up very badly. I had called my friend, a doctor, the day before and she had told me swollen feet can mean a few things- heart problems, kidney problems, gout or malnutrition.

Malnutrition. That must be it, I thought.

Dad frowned. ” I see… I didn’t know that. Sure, go. And make sure you tell him to see your doctor-friend too.”

So I went.

Zhou yeye, nin hao! (Hello Grandpa Zhou!)” I chirp. I squat down beside him. I love sitting next to him on those dirty steps.

He beams at me. I love to watch him when he opens the styrofoam box of food delivered to him. There is always a look of gratitude washed over his eyes. He holds the precious box, heavy with an extra portion of rice with both his hands, lists everything he sees in that box in great detail, and tells me a little about each dish. “This vegetable, ” he says, ” this is bai cai. Haha, bo cai is very nice too.”

“Oh dear,” I say in mock sorrow, “I didn’t get your favorite vegetable!”

He shakes his head. ” Ni mai de, wo dou xi huan… Yin wei… ni shi zhen xin mai gei wo de. Ni kan de qi wo. Ni mei you dang wo shi qi gai.” ( I like whatever you buy… because you bought it for me with a sincere heart… You didn’t look down on me, you dont treat me like a beggar.)

Again, I thought about the many times I had, in my heart, considered him a well man trying to cheat passers-by of their spare change.

People walk by us and look at us.

“Grandpa Zhou,” I ask very carefully, “Remember the last time you told me to tell you about your swollen feet? I asked my doctor-friend, and she says it could be due to a few reasons but we won’t know till a proper doctor has a look at it. Can I take you to a doctor?”

“That would need money right?”

“No, you’ll be seeing my doctor-friend. I’ve spoken to her. Free-of-charge.”

“Really?”

I tell him about HealthServe, a clinic along Geylang that serves the marginalised- construction workers, prostitutes and those who cannot afford basic healthcare.

He tucks into his dinner and we talk. I ask him about his daily meals and routine, and he asks me two questions that chill my heart.

” Hm…. Is it okay to eat cold food? Like say, if I bought food like this and left it aside? And oh yes, expired canned food is okay right? If I boil expired sausages in hot water for a rreeaally long time, it’s okay right?”

“No it’s not okay and it’s not all right, Grandpa Zhou. It’s always better to eat warm food, and canned food should not be expired. And no cup noodles. No cup noodles, okay?”

We talk some more, and he tells me about his past when he used to work at the cinema.

Wai Jia!” I hear a voice calling me from behind. I turn around, to see a familiar face, a junior from the medical faculty. She looks at me from the top of the flight of steps while I remain squatted next to Grandpa Zhou. “I thought I recognised your hair from behind. What are you doing here? Doing CIP (Community Involvement Project)?”

There is an awkward moment. I laugh, then I smile the smile I always smile when I dont know what to say. “No, I live here. Good to see you.” I smile some more. She takes some time to understand.

Grandpa Zhou finishes his meal. This time, I didn’t buy him beancurd because I’m not sure if he has gout. People with gout should avoid beancurd and beans.

“Wah, fish and egg today, thank you so much. You know, I don’t understand one thing. One thing, I will never be able to understand…. The people here at this train station- they are so lovely. I’ve met so many kind souls… I don’t understand… Why do you people do this for me? I don’t understand…”

“Because God loves us so much I want to share the love that I’ve received with you. Is that okay?” I smile.

He nods.

We agree to see the doctor. “They’re open only on Saturdays afternoons and Tuesday nights. Next Saturday afternoon or following Tuesday then. Closed on New Year’s day. We’ll go together.”

You can’t save the world and you can’t help everybody. Many people had told me that before and the words rang in my ear loud and clear. How they stung.

Yes, we can’t save the world, but in the first place, that is not our responsibility. Our responsibility is to love, one person a time, from our families first, inside and out. If we all helped one person, on top of loving our families, perhaps everybody would receive the love they needed in different places. More people would be less broken. More people would be loved in the right places, in the right ways.

And then I realised why I could not sleep the previous night. The wedding made me think of many things. I remember asking the missionary doctor while I was in China, ” Do you ever feel oppressed by the lifestyle here in China? Restricted by the lack of material comfort? I mean, life here is so… simple.”

The missionary doctor had looked at me, beamed brightly and replied, “Back home in Singapore, don’t you feel oppressed too? ” He grinned, ” By the opulence?” I thought of the many garish-looking, sequin studded gowns I saw last night.

I also remembered another missionary I had met in China, a lady in her seventies serving people with leprosy since 1960. Because of her dedication to the poor, she had turned down two proposals. Two.

So that was what I was disturbed by. The wedding banquet made me think about many things, about whether I would grow to like fancy cars and big houses and extravagant eighty-thousand dollar weddings someday. If I would have mine at the Shangri-La myself. If I could bear to serve the poor and share with them photos of my eighty-thousand dollar wedding, and my designer wedding gown.

Or if I would have a proper, simple but beautiful one, and have a table inviting people like Grandpa Zhou to it.

Or if I would have one at all.

I couldn’t sleep last night. And now I know why. I was just, wondering.

That’s all.

But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind…
– Luke 14: 13

Grandpa Zhou, have you had dinner?

I have chosen to write this because of what some of you have been sharing with me over the past few months. Some of you have been updating me on your progress, asking me questions, and sharing with me bits and pieces of your own Stories. It’s been very difficult to put my answer in an email to different people, or try and squeeze what I would go on to say in half an hour in a text-message space, so I’ve decided to write this letter to all of you whom I’ve met at the support group.

It’s been a joy knowing you all, and I thank God for each and every one of your lives. It’s a long one, so hold on tight.

My Ring

Many people ask me why I wear a ring on the fourth finger of my left hand. To most of them, I never share my answer. They think it’s because I’m attached and I let them think what they want. Today, I will share it with you.

I have heard people tell me of their recovery from depression and other challenges, because of “someone who loved me when I felt no one ever could.” I want to make it very clear that I do not believe in that. This, however, is my personal opinion and I don’t impose it on anyone.

I believe God sends us many angels to help us in our recovery, but not one person can be the reason for our recovery. Some people tell me it was a newfound boyfriend or girlfriend who made them feel like they were worth being loved, and my response to that is that for true recovery to take place, you must recover for yourself and God mostly. Neither your mother, nor your boyfriend, nor the support group, nor your counselor, nor myself even, should be the main reason for your recovery. What if your boyfriend leaves? What if he, too, faces troubles and becomes depressed-Are we all not human, susceptible to the lust of the eye and the temptations and stresses of this world?

People can inspire you, they can motivate, love, support you, open your eyes- but ultimately, you must want to recover because you want to and because you believe God loves you enough.

I wear a ring, with God’s name engraved inside of it, on the fourth finger of my left hand because it is my commitment to God with regards to my calling to be a missionary doctor, and to live my life well. And it is a reminder to me of the great love He has for us. We are like God’s bride. My ring also tells me that a relationship can only be beautiful when 2 whole people come together, not 2 halves.

That is why I wear my ring every day, all the time. And why I can’t explain why I wear it to most people I meet.


Doing what you do not wish to do

The Choices we make

We’ve talked about this before. Anorexia, for many, is about controlling the only thing you can when everything in life seems to be going out of control. It spirals into a perverse form of extreme discipline- I can’t eat this, can’t do that, have to burn these number of calories in this amount of time and the list never ends. This is discipline of the body. Since we are all so caught up with this grand notion of discipline, I want to share a higher form of discipline with all of you.

Its called the discipline of the mind and spirit. Discipline is, very often, a matter of doing what your natural impulse refuses to do. Recovery began when I started to exercise this higher discipline to replace the lowly, self-destructive discipline of the body. This higher discipline is about being positive, being alive, and being victorious. It is about doing what Anorexia refuses to do.

I ate when I knew I had to, even when Anorexia didn’t want to, even when I wasn’t hungry- because we all know that at some point, many of our stomachs shrink so much that even just a small meal fills us up so quickly. Even now, perhaps many of us find it very difficult to consume a normal-sized meal at one sitting. But at least, I make sure I eat enough throughout the day, even when I don’t feel hungry- because my hunger centre has been thrown off. I threw away my micro-skirts, even my favorite ones, the whole stack of them, because they represented insecurity, neediness and succumbing to our cultural idols of artificial perfection. I force myself to talk, write, express my feelings in times of distress even though my natural impulse is to go for a run. I have disallowed myself to participate in any form of long-distance marathon training until I know that my body and mind are fully well.

I make sure I eat with people when I lose my appetite because it lifts my spirits and helps me to eat better. I hardly watch television, and I don’t read trashy magazines even though the artist in me loves fashion- because it doesn’t help, it just doesn’t help. Can you look at me in the face and tell me reading Cleo helps you in recovering? People read trashy fashion magazines because it gives them a temporary delight of luxuriating in someone else’s fantasies. Maybe one day you’ll be able to read stacks and stacks of these magazines and be perfectly fine with it, but right now, is that the best choice to make for yourself? What you feed your mind with is essential to recovering. You can make the choice not to become a victim of superficial cultural ideals.

What is beautiful is what the eye cannot see.

You can choose to do what you do not want to do. You can choose to seek professional help even though you may need to overcome an initial barrier of feeling shy.

You always have a choice to do what you do not wish to do so that you are one step closer to getting well. You always have a choice, remember that.

You are not a number
We all know our blood-attachment to the weighing scale. When I was very, very ill, it was everything to me. Even during recovery, it was something to fall back on on bad days. Yet, against all obsession, I threw it away. I didn’t change its location, put it in another place so I wouldn’t see it, or tell my family to keep it from me. I did what I didn’t want to do but needed to be done. I THREW IT AWAY. DOWN THE CHUTE. There are many things in life worth throwing away. Your life is not one of them.

You are not a number. God made you a human being deserving of love, happiness and freedom.

Many of you tell me about the perverse feeling of delight when you lose extra weight, because it feels empowering and gives you a sense of control, discipline. I understand, I really do. But consider this- that that kind of discipline wastes, destroys and mocks, while a different kind of discipline, that of doing what you do not wish to do- for your own good, is a more beautiful, higher form of discipline, one that fulfills, builds, and sets free.

Remember, recovery is being strong enough to do what you do not wish to do.

Braveheart

You are very brave to have taken the first step to seek help, talk about your problem. You are very, very brave because so many choose to sleep over it in denial. But it doesn’t stop here. There is a difference between genuinely wanting to get better and taking action, and simply being content to wallow in the status quo because you’ve found a place to ventilate and feel comfortable among fellow people who suffer in the same place you do. There is a difference between true courage, and self-indulgence trying to pass as honesty, admitting your foibles not to improve but only to gain sympathy and consent.

That is no longer courage. It is called, at best, a more sophisticated form of cowardice.

So be strong, do what you do not wish to do in order to get better- that is making progress, that is True courage.

That good.

So many of you are very, very bright. I’m not surprised, because people susceptible to Anorexia are often perfectionists in the first place. Many of you tell me how devastated you are by your academic dip in studies, and some of you have had to stop schooling for a while.

Last year, in spite of saving a lot of travel time by staying at the hostel, I didn’t do so well in my first year of medical school myself. I know how it feels. I couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t remember anything I had studied. This year, I decided to stay at home, decided to recover. This year meant having to spend at least 2 hours a day traveling to and from university, while studying for twice as many subjects as my first year of school, and choosing to spend twice as much time at church than I ever did before.

But this is also the term I have scored twice as well. Do you not miss being above average again? Not because of some deep-seated insecurity driving you to perform, but doing well, simply because you are well.

I can finally eat with my family, and go out for meals with friends, attend social functions without feeling paranoid or anxious. I can finally –think- clearly and lucidly. My mind is freed from obsessing, obsessing, obsessing… I am no longer edgy all the time. My hair doesn’t fall out anymore. I can breathe, live, create, simply Be.

Yes, life after Anorexia can be –that good-. And it most certainly is Possible.

On Winning

You can’t win overnight, but you can win small battles every day, all the time.

You win when you eat well, one meal at a time. You win when you decide today is the day you will try and recover for yourself, and for God. You win when you lose and tell yourself you’ll try again, and again, and again. You win when you cry because it’s so hard but you press on anyway. You win when you forgive yourself for backsliding but never lose hope. You win when you decide to throw your scale away. You win when you decide you want to attend church regularly and thank God for your life, even when you don’t feel like it.

You win when you do what you do not wish to do, because you want to get better. You win when you believe that God loves you. You can win every day.

Keep winning small battles, and you’ll Win big-time eventually.

I keep receiving similar messages about self-loathing. Yes, we know- it’s not about the food or vanity, but it’s about what’s inside. I want you all to read this. And then write down ten things you are grateful to God for, about your life, talents and body. Ten things. Don’t just think about it- write it down.


On God

A lot of you ask me about God. And why He is so important to me, how He played such a big role in my life and recovery. There is one thing you have to sort out- that God didn’t give you an eating disorder. Life did, and through all things, God represents that hope for us to transform any form of suffering into strength, resilience and beauty.

I don’t want to over-generalise or over-simplify by saying that God is a one-time sugar-injection, and overnight rainbow rush, an instant cure-all. But all I can say is that believing in, learning about, serving and trusting in God over time is the reason I recovered so quickly. God and church are the reason I am who I am today.

Do you not know we are God’s bride, and that His love for us is “strong as death… unyielding as the grave”, which “burns like blazing fire” (Song of Solomon 8:6-7)? Is that not the kind of love we all long for, that deep, awesome love that is almost ferocious? Does it not terrify you one bit that for all our imperfections, Someone loves us that much, that terrifyingly? I know it terrifies me. It is why I wear my ring every day, all the time.

Believing in God means believing you are worthy of love; believing in God means trusting Him enough to believe that you are beautiful, and will be even more so when you start eating normally, eating well because He made you with all the love in the world- He won’t shortchange you by turning you into a fat-mound because you decided to eat well, be well (So many of you tell me this is your greatest fear!); believing in God means letting go, letting it go and just living, trusting and exulting in life.


On the Road

So many of you thank me. You thank me for being God’s angel to you.

But I just want to tell you that you too, have taught me much. You have been of great encouragement to me in many ways. It’s been my joy knowing you. And you, too, can become God’s angel to someone else in time to come, if only you will believe in it.

It’s a journey. It’s a real journey, one that winds this way and that, and still, I am walking it. We walk everyday- it is a long road, but it is always worth it.

Life after recovery really is -that good-.

Remember, God loves you. He loves you so very, very much. For every valley we go through, a mountain-top experience awaits. It may be a long journey, but it is worthwhile. A beautiful place awaits.

I am praying for each and every one of you. Be well for yourself and for God, no one else.

Be strong, and do what you do not wish to do, because you’ll be one step closer to that beautiful place.

You are very precious indeed.

Go and be Well.

God bless your hearts.

Love,
Wai Jia

I nearly forgot.

“I’m only at this train station on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Other days, I’m at Yishun train station,” Grandpa Zhou had told me the last time.

And there he was on Christmas day by the dirty steps, playing a broken tune on his harmonica.

Zhou yeye (Grandpa Zhou)!” I called out, before sitting down next to him. He broke into a smile, the kind I never saw when my heart was angry with pettiness at his seeming arrogance previously.

I squatted down to take his order. “Christmas dinner on me,” I joked.

He replied gently, shaking his head, “Anything will do. But 2-dollar meal only, okay? Extra rice will do. I love to eat rice. Two dollars okay? Fish all that, I like, but too expensive.”

I returned with dinner and wanted to leave. Having spent a lot of time this holiday being overseas on a mission trip in China, celebrating Christmas with family, spending time at church… I was very tired, and the Practical side of me wanted to go back and sort out a little work. A major exam in less than two weeks suddenly loomed into view. So much work, so little time.

And then I remembered what Christmas meant. It meant God loving us so much that all He asked was for us to love others as deeply as He loved us. It is something you and I can do, very simply, to share the joy of love with whoever we meet, wherever we are. It was all God asked for on Christmas Day a long, long time ago.

Sometimes, stuck in a dilemma, a voice in my head whispers, “What would you do if that person were Mister God himself?”

I looked at Grandpa Zhou sitting by the steps, his harmonica by his side- If he were God, I would most certainly want to sit with him, I thought. Buy him a meal, chat, and ask for the annihilation of Crocs from the face of the earth.

So I sat down. I have never seen such a small, old person eat so much for a meal. There was a thick slice of fish the size of a large palm, a huge cube of tofu, vegetables and a double serving of white rice. This time, I ordered more food than the last time, and just like the last time, he finished everything.

“ You call me Grandpa Zhou ya? Please call me that from now on… Don’t call me ‘Uncle’ anymore, is that okay? ‘Grandpa Zhou’… it makes me feel so good to hear that. You know, people look down on us… People look down on us, how many people will stop to talk with us? I have a license to busk, but people still see us as beggars. Don’t leave yet okay? I have some questions for you after dinner.”

I looked at him as he tucked into his warm meal. Not too long ago, I was one of those people, angry with pettiness at him for seeming to be a prideful, lowly thorn.

“You know, how many people will sit down and talk to us like that, buy us a meal? I will never buy this for myself… Fish… I like but so expensive. This morning I ate cup noodles- it’s so cheap. Cheap and filling. My daughter… thirty over years old, she’s never bought me a meal and sat down to talk with me like this… Thank you so much you know.”

“Grandpa Zhou,” I said in mandarin, “You know, we all struggle with different issues in our life. Meeting you has been a great blessing to me, you challenged me to open my eyes to what it means to love my own family more deeply.”

He looked at me, stunned. “Really?”

I nodded. “Looking back, I think I’ve a lot to learn about gratitude and being filial… maybe… maybe this is something your daughter will come to learn in time… Just like how I took a long time to realise I took a lot of things for granted.”

He eventually finished his meal.

“My first question. Why is my leg like that?” He pointed at his swollen distorted feet, the skin cracked painfully at the sides, “You’re a medical student ya? Can you do some research and tell me why?”

Then, “Second question, what did you do at church yesterday? Singing and dancing right? Must be… Christmas is special for you Jesus-believing people. That, I know, haha! “

I answered his questions faithfully and was about to leave when he said, “One more question, one more. But don’t be angry okay? Don’t be angry okay?”

I nodded.

He paused, then said, “ You have boyfriend?”

I laughed. All these old people always ask the same thing. “No Uncle, I mean, Grandpa Zhou. No.”

“Good,” he said. “ You finish studying first, concentrate in school, graduate and be a good doctor. All this romantic stuff can come later. Girls will always have suitors, but study first, that later. Ya, you’re not angry, are you? ”

I laughed. “No, I’m not,” I said. “I’m sorry, I’ve to go, Grandpa Zhou. I’ve got to spend time with my family tonight… It’s Christmas Day ya. Cant stay too long this time… So sorry.”

“Yup, sure. Oh yes, the last time I told you I couldn’t sleep ya? And you said you would bring me some oils or something like that?”

I had told him about some bottles of essential oil I had bought from Nepal, from the missionary who helps women support themselves by offering them jobs to make essential oils, soaps and candles. “ I’ll bring it for you this Saturday, okay?”

“Okay. Please remember okay? Cannot sleep ya… And beer is bad.”

Grandpa Zhou taught me many things. Loving your family, loving God, and loving people in small, humble ways. He opened my eyes to see that for every mile we are willing to go for Strangers we love, we should be prepared to go twice the distance for family. Twice, because family aren’t Strangers- shouldn’t be, at least.

He taught me many things. That for all the time we have in the world, there can never be too much time spent Stopping for someone who needs love, stopping for someone, family or Stranger, the way we would stop in our tracks if we knew that person were… God.

Christmas is every day, every person, all the time.

I gave him a side hug, and wished him a merry Christmas. As I turned to leave, he called out behind me, “Thank you so much. Call me ‘Grandpa Zhou’, okay? Not ‘Uncle’. It makes me so happy.”

“Bye, Grandpa Zhou. Merry Christmas.”

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me… … I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did unto me.”

– Matthew 25: 34-40

I Run
Away, in rebellion.
Like a forked tongue from the sea.
In an angry spit of jealous froth,
I Run from You.

I Run
Away, in rebellion
Like bitter streams snaking from the sea.
But You Pursue me
With haste, and make chase.

For Your love for me,
Strong as death, unyielding as the grave
Terrifies me.
Your love is a sea of fire, cruel,
No water can quench.

And I Run
Away, in rebellion,
But like a dark knight,
You lean and hearken after me
With haste, and win the chase.

I tire,
I am drawn back to You.

Water into water,
My hair loosens, mingles into You
As I unfold,

Spill into
Your vastness.

Water into water,
I unfold, spill into the sea,
Back to the beginning,
I return to the One
Calling me.

In rebellion I Run.
And in brokeness,
Return.

Slain, speared, succumbed.
Full circle,
I have come.

In brokenness I Return,
As all rivers do the sea.


Back to you, I Run.

For Your love makes my journey just,
And lets me end where I begun.

Back to You, I Run,
Yours, betrothed.

Song of Solomon 8: 6-7

Maybe Christmas is:

– sending out Christmas cards, writing to people you love and realizing you have written more than 80 letters to more than 80 people you love in 2 days.

– waking up at 5am to bake cookies for your family, neighbours and friends, and feeling refreshed.

– talking to God.

– emceeing for your church’s children Christmas programme in public, having fun teaching kids (and adults) an action song and laughing yourself silly on stage till you realise you’re being videotaped.

– having your sister return from overseas for a week and having family dinner- together, finally, and laughing till your tummies hurt, like we’ve not done for a really long time. Laughing the way we do only when the four, not three, of us are together, Complete. Four of us, together again, Complete, like the way things should be-even if it’s only for the next seven days.

– the four of us opening presents under the same Christmas tree we’ve had since I was twelve.

– knowing that Santa doesn’t exist- But that that’s the best news there ever was, because Someone else who does exist can give us more than Santa ever could.

There’s nothing more I really want for Christmas than what I already have for free.

A family of the four of us, Complete, laughing about stupid things till our tummies hurt; presents that only mean anything because of who gave it to us; and something deep inside so rich, and real and wholesome it could only be called God’s love.

What I want, I already have for free. God’s love, in the form of family, laughter and hugs. This has been the simplest and best Christmas Eve ever.

Merry Christmas to each and every one of you, and Happy Birthday, God.

I love You.

Extract from education material by SEDS:

Support for Eating Disorders (SEDS)

SEDS is a support group for sufferers and survivors of Eating Disorders. Details of meeting:

Day: First thursday of every month

Time: 7.00-8.30pm

Venue:
Life Centre
Bowyer Block A (Clock Tower)
Level 1
Singapore General Hospital

Two facilitated groups will be carried out, one for those seeking help (called survivors), and the other for family and friends (supporters).

You may email sedshelp@yahoo.com.sg which is managed by a survivor of Eating Disorders, call 1800-283-7019 or email counselling@samhealth.org.sg for more information on the support group.

Remember, Eating Disorders can be life-threatening. Wanting to recover is the bravest step to make. Please come for help, or bring a loved one to seek professional help.