She came running towards me and held my hand tightly as if she had been waiting for this day all her life. Her eyes searching for affection, staring right through me, urging to take an action or to say anything that would break the eerie silence. Her weak fingers still holding my hands, not letting go. Like the girl who just found her favourite ragged doll after having lost it. Not knowing what to do, I kept walking behind her, going around in circles till we reached where we had left. I was baffled. That’s how I can describe my first day at The Missionaries of Charity.
Our college requires us to do a 12-hour social service at any NGO. As part of this compulsion, my friends and I opted to volunteer at an orphanage which takes care of both normal and mentally retarded children. Since I love kids , it was only legit that I enrol myself into a venture I’m good at. Little did I know, it would change my perspective and how.
The thing with kids is that they are blessed with the power to love beyond any barriers, beyond their ego, beyond artificial benefits. You don’t have to be related by blood to be loved. All you have to do is smile at them and get lost in their world., Really,it is that simple. I had studied about differently abled kids as a chapter in psychology but to be able to get to know them and spend time with them was an experience I couldn’t trade for anything else.
What seemed like Social Service to me turned out to be a huge learning experience. I vividly remember the day I entered the room where the children with disabilities were occupied in their respective affairs. The room was filled with sounds and noises of all sorts with multiple activities happening all at once. The atmosphere was overwhelming and I had to take some time out to compose myself. Tears started rolling down my eyes and I didn’t know why. It was then that the girl with two ponytails came running towards me, smiling a smile I had never seen before. We went roaming around the entire room till she got busy with other things.
Most of the kids were physically handicapped, had cerebral palsy and autism while others had speech, hearing and vision impairments. They were different. They carried out their daily activities differently. Sure they were not as fast or competent in their chores but they were as good as other kids of their age. There were nuns who were assigned different duties and who were very capable of handling the kids. Since the little ones were special, they required special care and attention. (I’m going to refer to these kids as special because there is no other word that would do justice to them) . At first, I didn’t know what to do or how to interact even though I desperately wanted to mingle with the children. As time passed, I got accustomed to the functioning of the charity. The following days were then spent playing with the children, feeding them, helping them exercise timely and watching them enjoy everything that life offered. I can proudly say that some of the kids had a very good IQ level and excellent retention power.
They say you learn compassion and empathy when you put yourself in others’ shoes. In this case, I didn’t need to. In spite of the drawbacks and hindrances, the kids taught me the meaning of unconditional love. You don’t need to be a billionaire, or have the best clothes or the latest gadgets. All you require is gratitude and a heart that has the endurance to love despite all the odds.
The untainted and clinging faces of the children are still imprinted on my mind, their eyes spoke more than words could have, their laughter still echoing in my ears and their touch that radiated warmth and a sense of belonging can never be forgotten.
Some children are born to go out of the way, to color out of the lines, to create their own box.. You cannot possibly mould them into trying to be someone they can never become. They are happy the way they are. They don’t have unrealistic expectations of the perfect world. They’re not interested in some rat race where everyone is trying to outdo someone, where winning a competition is much more important than emotions or even self-respect, where having expensive things makes you loved and wanted. They want to be accepted as one of us. They just want to be considered normal, for once.
The art of being true to myself without being affected or influenced by the unending demands of the world was learnt in the best possible way.Learn to appreciate yourself, your loved ones, your house , almost everything in your life because trust me, you’ve got way more than you can ever ask for. Describing the whole endeavour through mere words is challenging; it is only when you see and feel the affection, compassion and love you realize the importance of the sense of obligation towards the less fortunate, the ability to make someone feel like tomorrow is more than just a day and to be able to love unconditionally and willing to be the silver lining in someone else’s life. All you have to do is let down your guard, go out of your way to help the ones in need and learn to be happy in their happiness. It is as easy as it gets. Truly, one small act of kindness has the strength to move mountains.
” Part of the problem with the word ‘disabilities’ is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfilment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities.”– Fred Rogers