I hate myself for smiling at the pictures of Junrey Balawing today. It's hard not to. The 17-year-old is absolutely adorable. From the top of his head all 22 inches down to the tip of his toes. But that, right there, is the problem. I'm being shown his picture for all the wrong reasons.
At age 17, Balawing is just about the size of your average 1-year-old (heck, he's the size of some long newborns). When he turns 18 in June, the Filipino is expected to be named the World's Smallest Man by the Guinness Book of World Records. That's why I saw his picture today. Because being tiny and sickly has made him famous. Because this poor kid is already being paraded out as a freak show to delight onlookers -- the Daily Mail's headline was a creeptastic "Make Mine a Small One," his name is showing up all over the web as "weird news."
It's a disgusting way to treat a child. Once you connect that smiling, adorable picture with his age, there's nothing cute and funny about Balawing's story.
Junrey has a hard time walking or standing up for any length of time. He has limited abilities to speak, saying only a few words. And it seems he's gotten nothing but horrible medical care his whole life -- when his mom took him to the doctor at age 2, they said they couldn't help. By age 12, they were being told to just feed him vitamins (which the poor family couldn't afford anyway).
There's no indication of what exactly has caused Balawing's condition. It's not abuse, and his brothers and sisters are of normal stature, so it's unlikely genetic or malnutrition. And although he's technically a dwarf -- someone whose stature at maturity remains below 4' 10" -- dwarfism itself isn't a disease, leaving why Balawing looks the way he does, suffers the way he does, up in the air even as people cheer on the "little guy" and talk about how cute he looks.
It's pretty clear his life in a third world country didn't help. In America, a child with a growth issue would be diagnosed, at least told something more than "take some vitamins."
In short, everything about Balawing's story is a travesty. Even the idea that being named in the Guinness Record Books will somehow help his family. Even if money comes pouring into their remote village, you can't turn back the hands of time and help this kid.
Looking at Junrey Balawing's picture doesn't make me smile now that I know his story. It makes me cry. How about you?
Image via YouTube