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The smiling surgeon

By: David Chong Posted: March-28-2010 in
David Chong

I open the door and slide a little less habitually to my kitchen and gratefully turn on the tap to the clean trickling sound of water filling my glass. Half full, I hold it to my lips…offering silent thanks for a luxury I often take for granted. And for a moment, with my eyes closed I am thankful for a moment. In beautiful silence.
I am home.

Missions to me are an amazing fugue that shocks me out of my complacency and daily routine. A bout of ECT that rattles my preconceived ideas and shakes my right to live a life of self imposed importance. A humbling. A reminder of what life is all about..

I have just returned from Cambodia. 10 days in a country where the people are the most gentle imaginable. Despite the horrific theatre of ”The Killing Fields”, arguably the most impressive display of mans inhumanity to man, these people are filled with a sense of peace, humility and gratitude. Like an abused child who has decided that instead of passing on the feeling he experienced and hated to the next generation, he will rise above, so too Cambodians seem to fhave forgotten past sins...and embraced new beginnings. A new time and the power of moving on. As you walk the streets, its impossible to detect the atrocities that might otherwise have scarred the social conscience of these people.

And it seems that this approach extends to the physically afflicted . In no other country ( except for Laos) have I looked so clearly into the eyes of young teenage souls who are painted horrifically by facial slurs, yet the smiles in their eyes dance free of judgement from their fellow countrymen.

It causes my soul to sing and soar. Really. I can’t believe it. I love it. It restores my faith in human kind. Usually if someone has reached their teens with a deformed facies, their visage takes on a mask… a frozen glare that protects them from reading the critical eyes of passerbys. Not in Cambodia. Here these same children laugh and play with their peers. Their playfriends don’t even bother more than a curious glance. It’s just another person. Onlookers pay no special attentions. And the facially afflicted are made to feel no different than their scarless counterparts….
I love it.

It makes me wonder why we are so critical of one another in our supposed privileged societies. The way we look at each other. Why do we assume so much from a face? And why can some believe that if someone looks a certain way, they deserve to be treated a certain way.
That makes me angry.

I walk out into the greenness that surrounds my home and life. I smile a bit more. I hold the eye of a passerby and try to infect them with a smile. Not this time. But it doesn’t matter. I have so much to be thankful for. So many judgements to reverse. So many ways to change. And all of it begins in me…

David Chong is an Australian Plastic surgeon who volunteers his time for Operation Smile


beyond the face

I wonder what would happen to so much industry that depends upon the face, body and accessories, if suddenly everyone looked beyond the face and was able to see only creativity, intelligence, generosity, humour and joy?
That would mean an industrial revolution wouldn't it?


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