There are a few things I wholeheartedly believe:
You should always bring a blanket to the movies.
Norman Rockwell is a genius.
And massages are one of the greatest things on earth.
You can imagine my excitement when I learned how inexpensive they were in China.
After conquering our communication barrier (aka using some man’s translator app on his phone), we were led up some sketchy stairs to a back hallway and dressed in gowns that were some combination between hospital-scrubs and basketball-shorts.
Now not sure if you’re a peace-and-tranquility type, but I love silence when it comes to massage.
Any hope of that was quickly thrown out the window.
To my right, my mom was trying to convince me to embrace “the full Chinese experience,” which meant letting them take a torch in the room to heat a dozen cups and then place them immediately on my bear back.
To my left, Emma was blasting Disney music from my phone, singing karaoke, and face-down (yet full-out) dancing on the massage bed as they worked.
To say the Chinese masseuses were amused is quite the understatement.
Soon, Emma was questioning her masseuse’s relational life and my mom persuaded me to accept their fire-breathing, blood-circulating, Chinese-medicine practice.
Which then gave my masseuse enough reason to ask if I’d like to add acupuncture as well (and not just any acupuncture, Acupuncture for Weight Loss).
Yet somehow amidst the chaos, this experience resulted in one of the most influential conversations of our trip.
By the end of our massages (and Emma’s karaoke), we’d become friends in a discussion about disabilities. When we told them Emma had Down syndrome, they conveyed their surprise. As we explained the self-sufficient things she could do, they began asking one question that led to another. It was incredible watching pre-conceived stereotypes gently fade away.
A similar experience occurred when Emma met the woman in charge of the government orphanage. Emma approached her and shook hands. When the woman responded that her name was Elsa, Emma gasped, “Ah! Asian (*singing*) ‘Let it go!’”
Emma pranced off to see the babies and I told Elsa she has Down syndrome. As I explained she could ride her bike, get ready by herself, scramble eggs, and participate in swim meets, Elsa’s eyes shifted and commented how remarkable it was a girl with Down syndrome could “do so much.”
Laughter has a strange way of breaking down barriers in this very private culture. It’s been a privilege watching Emma use her ability to make people laugh as one of the primary ways to connect with the wonderful people here.
If you ever feel like you don’t have anything to offer, let Emma be your example. You have gifts. You have talent. And you don’t need people to tell you you’re valuable before you can use them.