The grounds were neatly kept with flowers and green grass despite the winter season. We arrived with board games and crafts expectant to bring as much joy and smiles to those who have been left alone.
I entered the building and saw how it was relatively warm and peaceful. The staff was friendly and the rooms were colored in pastels of baby blue and yellows. In each room I was greeted with vacant stares and jumbled sentences, and my heart couldn’t help it…it ached for them.
I climbed the stairs unsure of what to expect and nervous to how communication would ensue. But I saw that it was fairly simple. Simple in the sense of love. If I could not find the words to say I saw that sometimes a simple pat on the hand would suffice, and they were grateful.
They all looked so fragile like wilted flowers holding on to their last days. But nonetheless they were beautiful, and we crafted with them over the sound of the beautiful melodies sifting from the piano… I would occasionally look out the window and see the beauty of the quiet suburb and realized how close yet how far they were from all of it. And I realized how blessed I was (am), and I couldn’t help but think of my grandmother and her mother and my mother… what if they were here? In their situation?
The thought and that realization drove me to love tenderly and wholeheartedly giving the best to them as I would to my own. And although I was meant to help them they taught me more than I could ever comprehend. Despite it all they still managed to love us and appreciate us in their own way. They had been stripped of so much (physically, mentally, socially etc…) but they held on to so much more… and they smiled more than people at the grocery store and more than me.
Learning a smile at a time.
At night it always looks different almost as though some magical transformation of the oddest kind takes place before dusk. The vendors have all packed up their flowers, newspapers and fruits and now its just us, the city lights, traffic, and all the familiar faces. Except for the face of the four year old.
She would sit and watch us play chess… occasionally poking around the chess pieces and intently observing as though her four year old mind could comprehend it all. I talked with her and occasionally gave her a cuddle and patted her head, and her wide innocent brown eyes would look at me as though smiling. She was full of life untouched by the cold winter air or the many homeless man and occasional ruckus. Her family was not well off as I could tell, but upon chatting with her mom I found her to be very warm and friendly and indeed a kind hearted Austrian woman.
The little brown eyed girl had won my heart, running up to me to give me cuddles (hugs) and ooing and awing at my nail color and hair as all little girls like to do… and before the night ended and before the food vans vanished, I went to say goodbye to her and she embraced me in her tiny frame and her hug I found was surprisingly warm despite her flip flops in socks and no coat… and she cuddled me and asked me for a kiss in the sweetest possible way and then she leaned in and placed a kiss on my cheek….
As I left I walked away “full” because of the love that had been poured into me by a four year old girl. Despite it all her innocence was so untainted and full of love…for me a stranger.
And I realized how tainted we become that the shades of grey get in our way of loving others…
I never go to these places to teach I go to these places learn and glean …