I was a librarian and it was yet another day surrounded by books, shelf after shelf, visitors walking around, looking at books, asking questions about books, and falling asleep at the little desks along the windows.
Several children started screaming and crying. Their caretaker had fallen to the floor, he died, someone randomly told me he had a poor heart, a few weeks after the incident. He had escorted twelve kids from the kindergarten just across the street, they were supposed to look at children’s books.
We herded the children into a study room, sat them down around the table and brought them hot chocolate, paper and crayons. I was in the room with them, distracting them, comforting them, I think we handled the situation very well. They never saw the police and ambulance crew coming, I told them that their caretaker just fainted, he was going to be fine. The children calmed down, drew pictures and drank their hot chocolate. We kept them at the study room until their parents came to get them, one by one their parents appeared and brought their child safely home.
I had some trouble with the last child, he was angry, he threw crayons at the others, and although I repeatedly tried to calm him down, he flared up on and off. He was the last one, and I wondered if his parents were notified. A colleague of mine explained that he was living in an institution for disruptive children. I looked at him.
Finally I saw him, through the fog of my judgmental thoughts. But it is not easy to see that which no one wants to see, and feel. I sat down by his side and looked at him, really looked at him, no pity, no feeling sorry for, no anger or judgement, I looked at him as if I knew him, I saw only his strengths, his potentials, I saw him in a safe and nurturing home, although I could sense that he was being hit and verbally abused at the institution.
It was difficult not to cry, as I tuned into the child’s suppressed feelings. I poured him some more hot chocolate and asked him what he had drawn on the piece of paper I had given him. He was ashamed of it, he thought he wasn’t any good at it, he had doodled angrily what appeared to be a black cloud or simply venting his anger through the black crayon. He started crying, it was because I actually took the time to look at him, to create a space of intimacy and communication. I made some funny faces, he laughed, I gave him the rest of my lunch, and a piece of chocolate. I heard some hard knocks at the door. It was two strict men from the institution, they were present to transport him back to his room, a small room with no pictures, he told me all about it. I ran towards the door and locked it.
The child was crying, he did not want to go back. I sat down beside him again, the knocks kept getting louder. I told the child to draw a heart. He did. I told him to draw both me and him inside the heart, and he did. I told him; “…you said that you live in a small room, right?, and it is frightening, yes?” He nodded, his eyes were wide open, trusting, he was ready to receive. “How do you feel right now?” He became silent, he appeared confused at first, but then he responded; “You`re nice.” I took his little hand and held it lovingly. “Nice is a house, it`s a big house in our hearts, we live there all the time, but it is invisible when we`re angry or sad.” He looked right at me, his eyes were still wide open, he looked down at the drawing, and then smiled when he looked at me again. “How do you feel?,” I asked him again. “Good,” he said smilingly. “Good is a house, it`s a big house in our hearts, we live there all the time, we all live there, no matter where we are, we live there, but it`s invisible when we are angry or sad.” I gave him a yellow crayon and told him to fill the heart with yellow, because yellow was good and nice, and our hearts was full of it.
He colored the heart. Smilingly. The knocks on the door kept getting louder. The child took the red crayon and wrote two words above the heart. I hugged him. We cried together. The door was unlocked by a colleague. I was severely reprimanded. I had kept the child in the study room for almost thirty minutes. No one understood what was going on. A child was given an opportunity to feel love. To feel it in and of himself, and he was told that the source of love can never run dry.
He kept the drawing. He hid it under his pillow and looked at it every night before he went to sleep. Although he was born into a culture of shallowness and violence, he has felt and remembered the indestructible force within him. He is that force.