Have you been noticing when the universe tries to make your day brighter? Do you notice when things around you seem to want to make you smile when all you want is to fall apart? Sometimes a sincere smile is all it takes to turn the darkness within someone into love and light.
I nearly missed my chance to notice a light shining bright in such a dark and sad place. Patricia’s smile proved me not everything is lost in this world, as I often tend to think. Sometimes I can only see the hearts of people darkening as time passes for we keep blindly choosing fear, but she proved me wrong when I needed hope the most. The little girl’s smile stole my heart on that day.
At the time I was a volunteer at a hospital, probably the experience that triggered the most the fear of exposure I developed during my depression recovery. Every aspect of my logical mind told me it was not a good idea to expose myself or to commit to anything that required me to be consistent and present. I still had no strength to provide stability for myself. Though I felt strongly pulled to go on that direction and do something… Something that made sense. My soul guided me well after all because at that hospital I’ve seen things I needed to see. I never expected to be seen, noticed, remembered or to make an actual difference in that place. I wanted to help, but deep down something was telling me I was there to observe. I went there thinking I would teach crochet to the mothers staying in the pediatric ward helping their kids to get better. The volunteer program had art therapy as a way to help and comfort them, so I thought maybe I could help with that since crochet helped me in my healing process.
In the end it didn’t really go like that, the mothers were not interested in art, the situation was far more critical and sad for art therapy to work. They then offered me instead the option to play with the children with a group of other volunteers. Which I was not really prepared for. I felt scared I wouldn’t know what to do. “I’m too quiet” I thought. At some point people started to notice it and began to question me “do you think you can bond with them? because you are too shy”, “do you think you can do this?”, “do you really think they will open up to you?”. Naturally all of this filled me with insecurities I already had inside. Soon it got clear to me what they wanted us to do…Some of the volunteers thought the only way to connect with children was to behave more like a circus clown. Being loud to the extreme and playing in a quite hectic way. Which obviously can be fun for children. But those kids were also sick…Most of them were taking a bunch of medications for months on. They were weak, sad, in pain, irritated and simply tired of being there. Most of the activities the volunteers would do to them were too chaotic. Too much noise and too much stuff going on all at the same time in the small playing room.
Since I was not included in the activities the other volunteers were planning, I was able to observe and spot every little thing. Competing for attention, expectations, insecurities, inner traumas and needs being projected on to those children hurting and blocking the little ones, taking pictures to show results, etc… They were all worried about everything else but the children’s real needs. What they couln’t see was that those children just wanted people to see them, to listen to them, to talk to them as equals, to let them express themselves without outer interference, and to see the world through their eyes just for a moment. The hospital was taking away from them the chance to be just a child. They were being forced to endure in an extremely harsh way and this finally brings me to the little girl Patricia.
That day I was on my second shift, usually there were not many kids playing in the afternoon. It was their resting time. But Patricia and two other kids had arrived to play with us. On that day the energy of the whole ward seemed darker than usual. While I was there I would try my best to be as positive as I could, but that day was just sad, too sad it started to affect me as well. Patricia seemed stressed out and sad, she was quieter than usual. Looking down she seemed exhausted. The look on her eye showed a type of exhaustion it’s common to be seen on older people, not on kids.
We were all feeling tired and not in the mood to play. I was feeling so hopeless that I was just sitting there watching to the TV. The other volunteer was trying to help Patricia draw and colour, but she was not interested at all, so she was also watching to the cartoon. No smiles so far. I thought she would not like me or want me to interact with her so I just stayed there waiting till the nurse who took care of the playing room decided to switch channels, she took the cartoon away to watch a corny soap opera, I looked at her and thought to myself c’mon are you serious, this is not even for kids to watch. I remember I kind of made a face of discontentment, but in a playful way. I then looked at Patricia to see if she was still watching TV and she was already looking back at me giggling quietly at the face I had made. She smiled and tried to contain her laughter. I made the face again and now we were both laughing quietly at the nurse watching that bad soap opera. I then asked Patricia if she wanted to keep watching the cartoon, she nodded, so I asked if the nurse could switch back to the cartoon. Patricia then smiled at me in such a pure way that filled my heart with a hope and joy I think I’ve never felt before. No words were really needed, an exchange of playful eye contact was more than words could ever say.
I could swear that for a brief moment I saw in her eyes a spark. A spark of a child. I saw Patricia going back to being a happy and free child, she was relaxed and smiling fot the rest of the time we stayed there. She was laughing and a bit more talkative. So observant and curious, she was aware of everything happening in that room all along. She also heard when the nurse asked me what I studied in college, Patricia noticed me saying I liked studying english. When I was about to leave for the day Patricia then tells me with a smile and a playful look on her eyes that she always wanted to learn english. Which made me go speechless for a couple of seconds, but feeling so amazed on the inside. Patricia was different, she probably had to mature a lot earlier. For someone so small and young she was showing to be infinite on the inside.
I was there to give her all the best I have to give to someone and she was the one who gifted my soul with something I’ve been looking for a long time in this world.
Being around them for that long I realized why this world always felt so strange to me. The more days I had spent there with them the more I could see myself in them and all the struggles they were going through. Kindness was something they were not really used to. We grow up to find a world filled with worries, problems, fear, hate, and all the negative aspects of a human being you can imagine. Some children on the other hand are able to see things way differently, they try to show us we need to change our ways, the question is: are we willing to listen to what they have to say? are we willing to let go of our pride and accept that maybe we have more to learn with them? We are the ones perpetuating vicious cycles of emotional traumas, forcing them to repeat all of our mistakes and pain.
Patricia’s smile, the smile of other pequeninos and their trust on me showed me something I wasn’t expecting to find there. “Trust yourself when the world says no to you, trust in your light when others try to drag you down.” The children at that hospital gave me hope above all, they were willing to embrace me when I couldn’t even do that for myself. They showed me a love I couldn’t even find for myself. They gave me healing when all I wanted was to be invisible, they saw me and I saw them.
I was the one supposed to go there and give them love and kindness, though they were already ready to do that in return even when I was asking for nothing. The truth is, I learned more than what I had to teach…
This post is probably dense as so is my mind right now.
I hope you are well.