A few weeks back I decided to sign up as a volunteer for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and during the screening/interview my supervisor noticed I was very ecstatic, ‘cause he kinda looked at me funny. In all seriousness, I knew what I was signing up for. As a ‘Wish Granting Volunteer’ I had to interact with children who I knew didn’t have a bright chance at living a long and healthy life. This fact terrified me to my core because I love children more than I love life, but the reason for my excitement was that I would be getting a chance to make them smile; that I’d get to play a tiny part in fulfilling what might be their last wish.
So, a few days later, my supervisor and I went on the hospital visits to do some “Santa Claus’ing” (figuratively).
The moment I stepped out of the car and looked at the hospital gates, I started to get this sinking feeling in my heart. I realized I’m about to see my worst nightmare in front of my eyes (as seeing children in suffering really is my worst nightmare). I took some deep breaths, shook my arms to loosen up, put on my brave/energetic face and repeated to myself, “Let’s do this.”
Ahmed (my supervisor) met me at the reception and led me to the children’s ward. Now let me tell you, I was expecting a grim scenario, because that day’s task was to meet up with thalassemic children whose blood transfusions were taking place. But the second I entered the ward I got this confused look on my face. Ahmed noticed it and smiled while he handed me the ‘Wish Forms’.
“You get the 5 year olds, coz I wanna see how well you do with the shy ones. Well, go on then, get to work.”
What is it with children with life-threatening diseases? How are they gifted with this pure sense of optimism that we adults fail to see in life? Believe me when I say this: not ONE child had a sad face in that room. Not one! They were on their beds with IVs stuck in their arms and someone else’s blood being pumped into their veins, but man that ward was filled with such positive energy!
No one knew who I was and why I was visiting (the children aren’t told in advance otherwise their parents might influence their “wish”) but which ever child I approached, they welcomed me with such a beautiful beaming smile their face lit up like a thousand splendid suns (no not the Khalid Hussaini book.)
When I held their tiny, delicate hand, it moved me to the brink of tears but the spark in their magnificent little eyes made me rethink my own approach towards life. I asked myself, “I live a life that a billion people would envy, and I sometimes feel depressed? Depression my ass. The next time I feel bad about my life I’ll probably hit myself really hard in the head, with a hammer.”
Maybe it was my observable excitement or maybe I just have a funny face because every child giggled when I met them. I mean come on, our introduction wasn’t our names, it was a “Hi” and 15 seconds of smiling and constant giggling at each other 😀 Imagine if we all human beings started to greet each other this way; the world won’t seem like such a bad place anymore, would it? 😛
Haha, anyway, I asked each child the usual questions:
What’s your favorite color? Your favorite food? Your favorite movie/actor/song/musician/tv show? Your favorite games? Your favorite pass-time? What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you want the most in the world? If you could go anyplace in the world where would you wanna go? Is there any favorite personality you want to meet?
Yes, of course they were physically weak and pale, and they had such tiny voices, but they still answered with such vigor and enthusiasm! They never lost eye contact with me, not even for a second, and that’s a big thing for a child their age. I haven’t seen such confident five year olds ever in my life. As for their “Wish to Be” desires, they have really big dreams I tell ya 🙂 Someone wanted to be a pilot (“I wanna travel the world”), an army officer (“I want to live and die for my country”), a doctor (“I want to get myself and everyone else healthy so that Mama and Papa become happy”).
I approached another child who had been staring at me for a while now. He was a handsome little fella with blue eyes. He kept fidgeting his arm (the one with the IV) and I had to call the nurse to help him with it. When the problem was fixed, I sat down with him and he began chewing his lip. I understood he was being nervous.
“You get nervous around pretty girls, don’t you?” I asked him with a wink.
He smiled shyly at me and said, “No, pretty girls get nervous around me.”
I gotta hand it to him, he was my favorite one that day 😀
“You’re a little too naughty for your age.” I lightly pinched his cheek. “So tell me, what to do want to be when you grow up?”
“I wanna be a helicopter.”
I laughed and asked him “You mean a pilot?” to which he replied, “No, a helicopter. You know the one with the fan-like wings? They are cool, big, strong and I want to be one and fly as high as I can.”
I had to tell him that being a helicopter won’t be a feasible option FOR NOW, maybe it’s possible in the future, so is there anything else you’d wanna be?
To which he answered, “Fine, I want to be an engineer so that I can build a helicopter and then fly it. Being an engineer will be boring but you have to promise me you’ll come fly with me. Will you?” He looked at me with his eyebrows raised and a mischievous smile on his face.
I was quite charmed I tell you. All I could do was laugh heartily, ruffle his hair, give him a high-five and say “Oh you better count on it little buddy, I’ll be your very first customer.” And in reply his 1000 watt smile said everything 🙂
Other than the “Wish to Be” desires, these children’s “Wish to Have”, “Wish to Go” were equally inspiring. You know why? Because those weren’t big wishes at all. They didn’t want anything, because they were content with the life and things they already had. And that is something we can learn a lot from. Regardless of life handing them dried up lemons, these kids have decided to do everything in their power to stay courageous and never indulge in self-pity. I had to dig these wishes out of them because MAW can’t fulfill everyone’s “Wish to Be” desire as these are big projects and require a lot of funding and support from other institutions; so we have to sometimes make do with fulfilling their wish to have something special.
Later when I was done with the forms, Ahmed came to me and said:
“What’s up with you and these kids? I never get such a warm welcome, and I’ve been coming here for years.”
Well, what can I say, kids adore me ^_^
I have gone on three hospital visits and everywhere I’ve seen this same energy, optimism, and LIFE within these precious children. Nothing can bring them down. We adults aren’t role models for them, but THEY are role models for us. They truly are angels on earth, and I look forward to meet them again at the 29th of April which is the World Wish Day where we’ll get to fulfill some of the wonderful wishes of these amazing children. May they all have long, healthy and beautiful lives ahead. Amen.
Day 6 Assignment:
Who’s the most interesting person (or people) you’ve met this year?
Today, write a post focusing on one — or more — of the people that have recently entered your life, and tell us how your narratives intersected. It can be your new partner, your newborn child, or the friendly barista whose real story you’d love to learn (or imagine), or any other person you’ve met for the first time in the past year.
A lot of people have decided to do this assignment as a fictional story because honestly, how often do we get to meet interesting people? But thank God I was lucky enough to actually interact with not one but dozens of amazing people in the past one month. And yes, one final thing before I finish.
Make a Wish Foundation is one of the best Non-Profits out there; what they’re doing is a remarkable social cause, so in whichever country you live in, please donate and give your support to your local MAW establishment. These children are some of the most deserving people in the world and if your money (no matter how little the amount) can play a small role in fulfilling their life’s biggest wish, you’ll be doing a great service to humanity yourself 🙂 Thank you ❤