There is a girl I want to tell you about.

I caught sight of her in the lush and colourful gardens of one of the many temples that Japan has to offer.

This girl was dressed in neat clothes, with colours that matched the autumn leaves. Red. Yellow. Bright and sparkling.

But this girl was bound to a wheelchair. And she also had an artificial breathing aid.

She couldn’t eat or drink without assistance. She couldn’t breathe properly by herself. She was totally dependent on her two friends, who pushed her wheelchair forward and made sure she stayed warm and comfortable.

I couldn’t tell if her condition was temporary or not. Maybe she would get better. Maybe not. I shall never know.

When the girl and her friends arrived at perhaps the most beautiful spot in the garden – a large tree bursting with yellow leaves – something special happened.

Her two friends helped the girl sit upright. They combed her hair, ever so gently. And then they removed the artificial breathing aid. For a minute, the girl was allowed to inhale the fresh autumn air. All by herself.

This was her special moment. This was going to be her autumn portrait, there under that tree.

One of the girl’s friends pulled a camera out of her pocket. She reached for the ground to pick up a few leaves, and gave them to the girl, so she could feel them with her own hands, and enjoy their colours with her own eyes.

This was her special moment. This was going to be her autumn portrait, there under that tree.

I shall never forget the girl’s face when the friend pointed the camera at her. So fragile. So beautiful.

She couldn’t have made it to that spot by herself. She couldn’t have overcome her limitations by herself.

But there she was, dancing with the yellow leaves swirling around her, carried away by the autumn wind.

And she smiled.

Kyoto yellow leaves

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