Yesterday I wrote about my nervousness in preparing for a visit to Children’s Hospital Orange County (CHOC). It was a therapeutic process putting pen to paper and helped me deal with the performance anxiety that only seems to rear its ugly head when I’m going to CHOC.
Needless to say that I had an amazing time with the children. I know that I will never get over the sight of young people’s bodies invaded by tubes or scaring and maybe I never should.
My first performance was in a small play room. The aids went through the halls soliciting children to come to the play room to hear music and storytelling. As the children were filing in, most of them pulling rolling I.V. stands, I spotted a young girl who looked familiar. I ignored the thought and greeted everyone entering. The young girl who caught my attention was with her mother. The girl’s mother shook my hand and said, “You’ve been to my daughter’s school!”
I looked at the girl and she did, indeed, look familiar. Her face was beaming and she had the most gorgeous smile. I asked her what school she attended and she explained that I had worked with her class, and several others, to prepare them for a performance more than 3 years ago. She also told me that her family moved during the preparation and she was never able to finish preparing for the presentation.
The duality of feeling overjoyed at reconnecting with an old student again and regretting meeting with her during an obvious period of despair didn’t escaped me. I wanted to do something special for her so I allowed her to choose the theme for the story I would tell. Her choices were: 1) Greed 2) Love 3) Honesty or 4) Honor.
For her first story she chose greed and I pulled out all the stops to put a smile on her face and the face of every other child there. The second them she chose was “Love” and that was an easy one for me. She was about 12 years old so I placed her inside of the story as the heroine and described her features as the most beautiful anyone had ever laid eyes on. I use this technique a lot with both boys and girls, identifying their characteristics as those possessed by the main character of the story.
I closed the playroom performance with a song for the parents in the room. I played Kaira and explained that the word meant Peace in the West African Language of Bambara. It was a wonderful way to close the performance in the playroom. I wasn’t able to hug the young girl because of her I.V.’s but we did manage to share a few really great smiles and laughs.
Following the performance I was escorted to several rooms where children had requested the storyteller. I love walking the halls of CHOC with my harp and sweeping into rooms singing and telling tales to the children. That is actually my favorite part of my visits to CHOC.
I could discuss the pain of what I witnessed or the few moments that nearly brought me to tears but that would detract from the profiles in courage that I felt honored to serve.
The families, staff and volunteers at CHOC are “all” amazing human beings. In a conversation with the woman responsible for me being there I asked her how she was able to function in this environment with witnessing so many children in pain everyday?
Her answer held so much wisdom for me. She said, “When I first started working here I was horrified by the scars, the visual impact of the surgeries and the suffering but each day I returned. After some time I began to actually “see” the children and not their scars or suffering. Even though they are each having horrendous experiences, they are all still children. I treat each and everyone of them as the child I see in them.”
What more should I write following that?