Behind James Sutjianto’s smile


“We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do,” Mother Teresa.

Ana Gutierrez, Entertainment Editor

I always thought that looking through someone else’s eyes would only change my perspective, not my literal point of view. After talking to senior James Sutjianto, I realized that if I were to look through his eyes, point of view would make a huge difference. I would feel invisible way too easily, way too often.

In a world where everyone wants to make it big, being labeled as small can be a disadvantage. Yet, as I thought back on all the conversations I have ever had with James, he did not seem defeated or bitter. Instead, he learned to value what he did have, including the ability to smile.

“Smiles are a really good source of encouragement,” James said. “I had a big surgery freshman year and always felt down about that, so I would do my best to stay happy and positive, mainly through smiling.”

James rises 4 feet and 3 inches above the ground, yet in his eyes this is just a number trying, and failing, to limit him. Whoever said that the greatest things come in small packages must have been thinking of him.

“My case of dwarfism occurs once in every 25,000 cases,” James said. “It is really, really rare so it is that much easier to feel different.”

Hardly ever is a person’s toughest battle obvious to the public eye, especially in a town like Katy where pretending to be fine is a habit rather than a burden. For 17 years, James has lived with the fact that he will never physically measure up to others, but he sees the real problem not in his stature, but in how others see it.

“Even though I don’t blend in with those around me in terms of size,” James said. “I want [others] to treat me like any other person and not just look at who I am physically.”

There is no vaccine to prevent dwarfism. There is no medicine that will increase his height by a foot or two, but life has gifted him with something greater than a physical solution. People have been placed in his life that have helped him turn what others consider strangeness into uniqueness.

“My friends and family encourage me and bring me happiness,” James said. “They tell me not to look at who I am physically, but to look at who I am in here. *points at heart* What lies within is the reason that I smile.”

Friends and family have been James’ anchor during those times when the waves just hit too hard.

” Everyone in my life has impacted me. I did have some negative friends that I lost contact with and they are no longer very important in my life,” James said. “I think everyone I have met has influenced me to be a more positive person.”

While many individuals are willing to go out and change this world on their own, James has also placed his hope in the rest of us.

“Back in the 1900s, my doctor, who is short also, was interacting with a society that hated him.  He went to Brown University, got a degree there, and then got rejected by all the best medical schools,” James said.“The acceptance of short statured people needs to be enhanced so others don’t just look at how our physical mutations are, but instead look at who we are as a person. I would like that to change”

Despite what society presents and what others may say, James has found his reason to smile within himself. He knows that through his intelligence, passion, dedication, and much more he can make his dreams come true.

Today, the world keeps spinning as it did yesterday. But unlike before, what happens each day can be different. Maybe today, as you read this, you will decide to change how you see James and those like him. In the end, everyone smiles the same.

“Smiles are a symbol of how happy we are. When everyone smiles we all know that we live in a more peaceful and relaxed society compared to what’s going on right now,” James said. “If everyone was happy to themselves and to each other this would be a better world.”