The education system in Singapore has gone through much changes and developments. From what used to be just kindergarten, primary school, secondary school, VITB, Polytechnic, Pre-U, and University, now there are pre-school, K1, K2, higher mother-tongue in Primary schools, N levels, O levels, IPs, ITE, Baccalaureate. Schooling is so complex nowadays.
One interesting development is in the area of Special Education. Teachers in this field are trained to help students with special needs like autism, dyslexia, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) etc.
Our educational system recognizes that students with special needs are diverse learners. So by adapting and differentiating the instructions, these students can learn. More time, more effort and more resources may be required but students with special needs, given the correct educational formation, can be an asset and contribute to the growth and development of society.
Here are some examples of famous people with special needs:
OCD: Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, David Beckham, Donald Trump, Harrison Ford
ADHD: Jim Carrey, Michael Phelps, Walt Disney, John Lennon, Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison.
Dyslexia: Tom Cruise, Lee Kuan Yew
So although they may have some kind of disorder, but it is not a defect or a disadvantage. They are just different and they can be made into a distinction. They may be different from the rest but they may become one of the bests.
In the gospel parable, we heard about a man who summoned his servants and gave them different amounts of talent. To one he gave 5 talents, to another he gave 2 talents, and to the third he gave one talent.
The one who was given 5 talents made 5 more; the one who was given 2 made 2 more. The attention is then turned to that servant who was given one talent.
Unlike the other two, he did what can be called a quiet funeral service – with that one talent, he buried it in the ground.
And when the time of accounting came, he delivered a lousy “eulogy” to justify himself as to why he buried that one talent. He wanted to absolve himself and indirectly blamed his master for being too demanding.
But what that third servant did not do was to explore the potential of that one talent. As he himself said: I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground.
Yet that servant also knows that his master expects him to do something about that one talent. As his master said, he should have deposited it with the bankers and recover that capital with interest.
So the Lord also expects us to do something with our gifts and talents. And the more we are given, the more will be expected of us.
On the one hand we use our gifts and talents to glorify the Lord, and on the other, we also must help others to discover their talents. That is our service and duty to those who are deemed as liabilities of society, those who are slower, have more difficulties, who seem to be “defective”, those who in the eyes of the world would be buried in the ground and written off and forgotten.
But like those with OCD or ADHD, they are not defective. They are just different, and that difference can be made into a distinction.
A story has it that the famous Michelangelo acquired a block of marble that every sculptor thought was defective and useless. So one sculptor asked him what he was going to do with such a useless block of marble.
Michelangelo replied, “I am going to release an angel out of it.” And from that so-called useless block of marble, he carved out the famous statue of David.
So if God made all things good, and nothing and no one is useless or defective, then we just have to look from a different angle and we will see the distinction.
Not many of us may have disorders like OCD or ADHD, but we often complain that we have disadvantages and difficulties that make us feel lesser than others.
A man said to a priest: Why do I have so many difficulties as compared to others? The priest replied: Shhh … don’t speak so loud, otherwise God might hear it and He might reply – If you want to know why, then come up here and find out!
But whether it is difficulty or disadvantage or disorder, it is not a defect, and a good can come out of it, maybe it can even be made into a distinction.
Many years ago, a sixteen-year old boy he left home to find employment in New York City to help his poor family. He had previously worked in a soap manufacturing shop. When he told the captain of the canal boat upon which he was traveling that he planned to make soap in New York City the man gave him this advice: “Someone will soon be the leading soap maker in New York. You can be that person. But you must never lose sight of the fact that the soap you make has been given to you by God. Be a good man. Give your heart to Christ. Give God all that belongs to Him. Make an honest soap. Honor Him by sharing what you earn. Begin by tithing all you receive.”
Along with that and with his mother’s words of “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God”, he arrived at the city, managing only odd jobs. He remembered the boat captain’s words and so for every dollar he earned, 10 cents would be given to God.
He soon found regular employment in a soap-making company, and then he became the owner and he prospered and his business grew.
And all the while he kept the promise of giving one-tenth of his earnings to the Lord, and more as his business grew along the way.
So what is the name of this 16 year-old boy? William Colgate. And who has not heard of Colgate toothpaste and soap and other products.
William Colgate was poor, that was his difficulty and his disadvantage. His only talent was soap-making. He may not have a disorder like OCD or ADHD, but he had a devotion to the Lord.
He gave to the Lord one-tenth of what he earned, he gave money for education and helped the poor. He turned difficulty and disadvantage into a distinction.
Literally he used that one talent in soap-making, for the glory of God and to help and serve others.
Whether we have one talent or many, whether we have a difficulty or a disadvantage, whether we have a disorder or a devotion, let us not bury it in the ground.
God wants us to use it, and He will turn whatever difficulty or disadvantage or disorder into a distinction for us that Jesus can truly call us His good and faithful servants.