I positioned myself on the edge of the young boy’s bed, close to his outstretched legs with tiny wiggly toes dancing in my direction as he smiled wide. His face was glowing in heightened anticipation of impending story and music I had come to share with him. He’s only four, a magical age where the line between enchantment and reality is blurred by an uninitiated fascination with the world and an unhinged imagination.
For our purposes I’ll call him Josh; not his real name of course but you’ll understand why a pseudonym in a second.
Josh was munching on crackers and watching cartoons when I came into his room. He is a cancer patient at Children’s Hospital. His mother has never been more than two steps from his bedside each time I’ve visited.
I sometimes visit Children’s Hospital and they allow me to go room-to-room on various floors and engage the children with songs, music and stories. On this particular day I wanted to visit Josh and his mother because I had met them the week prior and promised to return. Josh has a love for train sets and, more specifically, “Thomas the Train (a cartoon character).”
As I sat there on his bed staring into two beaming, hope filled eyes, his smile overtook me and I broke into a wide grin of my own. It felt like old, long lost friends reuniting and being filled with immense joy over the gift a moment in time brings.
I began playing my harp for him and singing. He loves the sounds of the words being sung in an African language even though he doesn’t comprehend the meaning. I continued playing the strings gently and flowed into a tale about a brave lion who had been king of the jungle. This King Lion was facing a challenge greater than any he had ever faced before.
Little boys tend to love tales of lions and great beasts with gentle natures. Josh’s eyes grew even wider when I described King Lion. Those moment’s when I would pause for effect, Josh would chime in with his own uncontrollable epiphanies on our protagonist’s motivations.
I interrupted the tale two or three times by breaking into song and singing softly. Josh’s toes danced ever so slightly as his head bobbed up and down, right to left in that childish “don’t-have-a-care-in-the-world” way that only the most innocent among us possess.
When I finished my telling of the tale and closed out by letting the loudest string on my harp fade to silence, Josh and his mother clapped enthusiastically for me. It was only an audience of two but it might as well have been thousands at Carnegie Hall because I was feel the same sense of satisfaction.
I sat there on the bed after their clapping subsided and asked Josh what did he think of the story, did he really like it?
He cocked his head to one side, a bit askew, looking up towards the ceiling as if deep in thought over his potential answer to my question.
Josh brought his eyes back down to meet mine and kept those chubby cheeks churning out the brightest, most adorable smile. He then reached into a bag that was resting between his legs and pulled out a cracker and held it out toward me, a square almost covering his entire tiny hand.
I accepted my compensation with grace, as if he had just handed me a million dollars. It felt no different. My heart melted at the thought that this little child found value in me and what I was there to do.
Before leaving the room I wrapped my gift in tissue paper and put it away safe and secure.
When I got home earlier that evening I placed Josh’s gift to me on my office desk.
There it sits as I type these words to you, a reminder to me that life’s affirmations may come in many forms.