3 Minute Coffee with Uncle Reggie: Yunnan grit and courage:
Adam transcends his paralysis. Part 2
Impressive Graduation Day for kids of Adam’s school.

We continue the dramatic story of Adam Wu Zixiang 武子祥)from Yunnan, and how he transcended his childhood paralysis.


 Lonely, difficult days. When Adam was growing up, there were many lonely days. He couldn’t travel easily, so he depended mostly on friends coming to visit. He wished for a close friend he could freely talk with. Everyone needs a close friend, preferably one with common interests.


In Adam’s single-minded mission to be a better teacher, a key goal was to improve his own English; this became a lifelong struggle and burden. Ideally, he hoped for friends who could also communicate in English. But that was really difficult to find in a small town and he was often quite discouraged. He was on a very special mission at a special place.


Spiced pork encouragement. Adam told me he was grateful he had an understanding father, who was often willing to sit down and talk with him when he needed encouragement. Even though he was a busy farmer and pedicab taxi driver. Adam’s dad empathized with him particularly in difficult times when others couldn’t understand him. However, his dad passed away when Adam was in his early 30s, creating a big gap in Adam’s life.


Adam’s mom was an additional source of inspiration, especially as she understood his taste in food well. He fondly remembers her cooking his favorite dish,  水煮肉片,spiced pork slices with pepper, particularly when he was depressed. When he described the dish to me, I could sense his salivating joy! Love is definitely well expressed through delicious food.


Classic colored chalk announcement board for the Luquan Haiyun School.

Hand surgery is extremely complex and challenging. I have been fascinated with hand surgery because of its challenging complexity, and through long friendship with renowned hand surgeon Paul Brand (1). For the hand to work well, there are truly innumerable complex nerve, muscle and tendon inter-relationships and functions that all have to work smoothly together.

手部手术是极其复杂和困难的。因为手部手术的复杂性和挑战性,我一直对它感兴趣,还有因为我与著名手外科医生保罗·布兰德Paul Brand的长期友谊(1)。为了使一只手顺利工作,其中的神经、肌肉和肌腱的无数复杂的相互关系和功能都必须协同运转。

So when Adam was considering surgery on his partially paralyzed right hand, I knew it wasn’t straightforward.  Indeed, an expert surgeon came specially from Kunming, the capital, to operate on Adam in his hometown.


In his long recovery and rehabilitation in the hospital, he was very touched when his teacher brought his entire school class to visit and encourage him. But, even though there were some hopeful signs, it turned out, truly disappointingly, that the surgery failed.


So even today Adam has to use his left hand to help his right hand in difficult tasks, limiting his flexibility in typing and other important manual functions.


A big turning point. An unexpected turn in Adam’s life came when he attended a special NGO (non-government organization) school in Kunming. Adam had had few opportunities for post-secondary schooling, so he jumped at the chance.


There he learnt about computers, and he met caring people who were very encouraging to him. One of them introduced him to truth and a life of inner joy. For a young man without much hope, it was a big turning point, and Adam looks back at this moment with deep gratitude!


“Just dropping by” to visit Adam in his home, no warning needed.

“Just stop by…no need to call.” When visiting friends in rural small towns, it was understood there was “No need to call ahead, just come on over.” One was supposed to just wander over to the neighbors and knock on their doors, with no forewarning. I learned to do this well, and so several team members and I would just stop by “on our way somewhere”, and knock on Adam’s door.


“Just stay for dinner!” We had touching responses from Adam’s mother to our unannounced visits; she was always so spontaneously enthusiastic, warm and hospitable. She would instantly sit us down and insist on wanting to feed us dinner! As if she had fully expected us! We modern city dwellers could really learn from her!


We had to practically fight off the invitation and insist on just staying to chat. But even that meant nuts and sunflower seeds and oranges and bananas to nibble on, which was fun, but made us thoroughly embarrassed. Westerners can’t handle spontaneity well!


A special weekend trip. One Sunday, Adam decided he wanted to go to the town’s official Church, so we swung by to pick him up. One of our mission team members, an ophthalmologist, lifted him up gently and put him in the pedicab, and off we went.


Adam was so light, actually, that this strong doctor basically carried him into the pews. We had a great rare opportunity to visit the church. Its members surrounded us to wish us well, and insisted on taking a memorable picture all together. (See Part 1 of the story).


Disability awards for Luquan County and Kunming City.

“Deep as the oceans, high as the clouds” vision. Opening day soon came for Adam’s dream of an official school. He named it Haiyun, or Ocean Cloud, which represented to Adam, “knowledge as deep as the oceans, and as high as the clouds”. Knowledge he eagerly wanted to impart to his willing students.


It had taken a long time and a lot of hard work to reach this moment. But with multiple glowing government reviews and letters of commendation, his school became quite famous in the region. He received many awards that specially and fittingly emphasized his triumph over disability.


Impressive new generation of entrepreneurs in China. In a modern way, Adam also represented the new generation of entrepreneurs in China, now given freedom to create,  improvise, and be enterprising. His school is a very pretty three-story building that includes a youth hostel for some live-in students and good, functional classrooms. It has produced nearly 4000 graduates over 21 years, a great contribution to the community and society.


Location, location, location. Every good realtor emphasizes the key issue of location, location, location for any property. Adam’s school had exactly that, right next to the public County Minorities School. His family also lived on the premises of his school, a great win-win situation. Just one eight-foot wall separated his home/school from the public school.


We especially loved the location, since we had taught many times at that public school, and had interacted often with the children and youth. A modern five-story school with probably 1,000 students and well-kept modern classrooms.


We particularly loved our numerous “English Corners” at the corners of their basketball courts, where we could talk freely about many interesting topics! Having fun teaching and learning, through chatting in English.


Disabled person role model. Very appropriately, Adam was billed by the authorities as a fine role model for many young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Programs to help disadvantaged people were then in their very early stages of development, especially in the countryside, so every success helped to inspire others to understand the issues a bit more.


When I read all the accolades and newspaper articles about Adam, it was clear that many who met him were touched. He has received many visitors to his school who particularly wanted to meet him, these visitors coming from his own province, many other provinces, and even other countries!


Imagination, turning point and perseverance. It is really difficult to imagine Adam’s life story and his own personal perseverance in spite of the huge societal difficulties and challenges hurled at him!


But he’s truly grateful for the unsung help and inspiration from many warm and diverse sources! Especially at the key turning point of his life.





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