2002 / 11月
陳美玉慢慢懂事之後發現，她和其他小孩不一樣。為什麼人家常常笑她：「ㄅㄞ ㄎㄚ（跛腳）」，「什麼叫做『ㄅㄞ ㄎㄚ』？」這字眼讓她小小的心靈充滿了恨，常常想：「有一天我睡醒起來，你們所有人的腳也會跟我一樣ㄅㄞ ㄎㄚ！」
Michelle Sung Ing /photos courtesy of courtesy of Chen Mei-yu /tr. by Butler Waugh
Oscar Wilde wrote, "Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." When skies are dark and ten thousand lights are flickering, human society is not dark, because we are all candle lighters.
Chen Mei-yu is the director of the Resource Contributions Department at the Eden Social Welfare Foundation. Physically challenged, she leads an active life and uses her boundless energy to help similarly challenged friends. Her optimism and sincerity are infectious, touching people throughout society, and she has brought the fundraising activities of the Eden Foundation wide recognition.
She's sitting across from me, brimming with energy, laughing, pretty, and confident. You would guess that she might be a reporter, or perhaps a television host. Yet it would be hard to imagine she needs support to stand or crutches to walk.
Chen Mei-yu, 33 years old, bright and lovely, seems like a beautiful piece of delicately carved jade. Although physically challenged, she has filled her life with meaning and hope. As director of the Resource Contributions Department at the Eden Foundation her efforts have created greater public awareness of the foundation's important fundraising work. She says, "I'm a physically challenged person helping other physically and mentally challenged people. It's not just a job; it's a mission to help people. Because of this my life is filled with joy. I'm so fortunate compared with most people!"
When people get close to her they're charmed by her optimism and sincerity. When other challenged people see her they feel renewed hope, and think to themselves, "If she can do it, I can do it." When goodhearted contributors meet her, they soon trust her and feel as close to her as if she were family.
Being physically challenged is, of course, heartbreaking. No one would willingly accept this destiny. There are some who live in great hardship, and there are others who can still live an active life, as Helen Keller did. You could say that Chen Mei-yu is Taiwan's Helen Keller.
Chen Mei-yu was born in 1969 in Puhsin, Taoyuan County. Her father Chen Yao-keng had a small business in mountain products, her mother Chiu You-mei was a good homemaker, and together they raised seven children. The second oldest, Chen Mei-yu was a cute, healthy baby. In 1971 as the last epidemic of polio was sweeping Taiwan, Mei-yu was just learning to walk. In the winter of that year, she suddenly developed a fever that lasted two days and two nights. Her mother brought Mei-yu to the hospital, and when the fever subsided she thought everything was fine. But after a few days Mei-yu's mother discovered there was something wrong. No matter how she placed the infant in a chair or on the bed, she would just fall over and start crying. Her mother rushed the baby to the hospital and a doctor told her Mei-yu had contracted polio. After therapy, Mei-yu recovered with only one side paralyzed and today considers herself fortunate.
As Chen Mei-yu grew a little older she discovered that she was not the same as other children. She wondered why others called her "Gimpy." What was this word "Gimpy?" It was a word she grew to hate. She would often wish, "One day I'll wake up and everyone will have legs like mine, and we'll all be gimpy!"
In the third grade, one day after school three boys followed behind her dragging their feet and pretending to fall down, loudly laughing "Gimpy!" Her heart felt as though it was cut with a knife, and she wished that the three boys would disappear. Stifling tears as she hurried home, she was crying loudly as she asked her father, "Why did this happen to me? Why do people laugh and call me Gimpy?" Her father started to cry and console her, saying, "They don't mean to hurt you, don't try to understand it. Your mother and I did everything we could to make your disability better. This is what life has given you, you just have to try and be strong." That was the first time she saw her father cry. Afterwards she wouldn't allow her parents to feel such pain, and she has ever since done everything she can to keep her own emotions upbeat.
Her parents would not help her avoid everyday tasks just because of the inconvenience of her disability. They felt this would help train her for work. Her mother said, "We can support you for a time, but we won't be able to support you all of your life." The only special treatment she received was that she didn't have to lift anything heavy.
While in the fourth grade at Juipu elementary school, her teacher Mr. Liao encouraged her to take part in a field trip to the Taipei zoo. Chen Mei-yu became tired and the teacher had to carry her. She would walk part way and then be carried part way. Seeing the elephant, giraffe and other animals, she discovered the wonders of the zoo and enjoyed the whole day. But to her dismay the other students blamed the teacher for playing favorites. After this she decided to become even more independent to guard against burdening others. As long as she can do a task, she won't let others do it for her.
Chen Mei-yu even resolved to be better than others and to take on ever more difficult challenges, such as the 500-kilometer wheelchair race on the North-South Expressway in February 1995. Starting in Kaohsiung the race took five days as Chen propelled her wheelchair back to Taipei. In July of 1996, she represented Taiwan in a world wheelchair competition held in Britain, and won a bronze medal in the 400-meter race. Each competition shows Chen's persistence and willpower. She not only surpasses her own greatest limits, she also makes others exclaim in appreciation.
Chen Mei-yu worked part-time and studied part-time to complete high school. She worked for a year and then went to Cheng Hsin Hospital for surgery and rehabilitation. After rehabilitation she moved to Hsinchu for vocational computer training. In January 1991 she interviewed for the Eden Social Welfare Foundation and was recruited. During the past nearly 12 years she has helped countless physically and mentally challenged people find jobs, organized community classes for women and children, and provided support services for many disabled friends and seniors living alone. Currently her focus is fundraising.
She often encourages her physically and mentally challenged friends with: "Nothing's impossible, just ask yourself if you have tried everything." She cherishes every moment that she spends with people, and nourishes every seed of charity with her sincerity, allowing the resources collected to smoothly promote services to society.
She loves the thrill of the wind chasing her when racing her wheelchair. Her every moment is a race with time. For all of the challenges in her life, she is the wick in a candle, her flame warmly shining on those around her.
Chen Mei-yu racing with the wind. She is young and lovely, and skilled at raising contributions for the Eden Social Welfare Foundation.