Is it possible the real heroes who walk this earth work far from the public eye? Is it possible heroism shows its face daily from little acts of kindness?
I don’t recall his name and I don’t recall why he was in the hospital. But I will never forget his face.
He stared up at me with fear, mainly because I had entered his room with a giant mascot from the Baltimore Blast.
Within seconds, a nurse came in and said she didn’t think it would be good idea right now.
We were at an annual radiothon that I co-hosted for a children’s hospital in Baltimore, the Johns Hopkins Childrens Center. We were going from room to room with “Blaster”, cheering up the kids who were sick. But this room was different.
This room didn’t have the cheery balloons and flowers adorning the walls. This room didn’t have a multitude of family and friends.
It was such a dramatic shift from the welcoming scene we had in every other room. Oh, sure, there were kids who were cranky following procedures, and kids who were out of it from drugs, but the families that were standing vigil were always pleasant and welcoming.
And yet, I couldn’t shake the face of the little boy who we had startled, so I asked the nurse about him.
He was mentally challenged, and his parents both worked. Both of them had exhausted their time off allotments for their low paying jobs, and could no longer spend more than a few hours before bed with him, but they showed up like clockwork, if their bus was on time.
She and the other nurses made it a point to visit as often as they could in addition to their regular rounds. The Child Life department, which arranges activities for the kids, also had noted his situation. They would send somebody in every Wednesday to play “Hospital Bingo” with him. He looked forward to it, even if he couldn’t quite grasp the game. A volunteer, a retired teacher would come in on the weekends and get him to sing along to the “Barney Theme” on her keyboard.
Little acts of kindness. None of them took much effort, but all of them put together made a little boy’s personal horror less so.
These aren’t acts of great courage like running into a burning building or diving into cold water to save lives. These are acts of a different kind of heroism. A quieter, and yet, just as important heroism. A little boy comes in to their world, and they note the challenges he and his family face, so they all pitch in where they can. they weren’t asked to do so and it’s not necessarily part of their job description, but they do it because in the end everyone is better for it.
All around us, people do similar acts that go unrewarded, unmentioned, but they make our world a better place.
All around us, people get burdened by a sharp turn in life’s road, a sudden illness, a tough economy, a tough job situation, and others quickly fill in the gaps where they can.
The small, little things may be the things that keep this world from totally rolling off the tracks.
If you decide to make a contribution to Hopkins, I want you to know that it is with the children who are like the boy in the room that appreciate your gift the most. Some of these kids are wards of the state, or come from miserable home lives, that the little time spent with a smiling face playing bingo is literally one of the best things to happen to them in awhile.
The thought of that kid stayed with me. And every year when I returned to the hospital, I learned my silly problems were small, mainly because children who were ill showed me they were. They showed me incredible strength in the eyes of thunderous storms. They put up with procedures that would knock me to my knees. And they handled pain and death sentences with grace and dignity.
I will always be a part of the radiothon. Whether I’m physically there or not.
Give if you can. They make children’s lives a little bit better. A little piece at a time.