“Hello” she said. Her little voice breaking up the worried thoughts that were racing through my mind.
I turned towards the voice and smiled but said nothing. Her little feet raced to catch up with me as I walked with purpose holding on to the side of his crib while the nurse navigated through the back hallways of the children’s hospital.
“Are you worried?” she asked me.
I wasn’t able to find my voice so I simply nodded yes while I stifled a sob and tears filled my eyes.
My infant son had just had an upper GI test. Only one of us were allowed in the room at a time so my husband took this one. I sat on the other side of the door and listened to him scream while they removed his feeding tube to do the test. I sat on a chair with my head in my hands and listened to him scream. I wanted to break down the door and grab him and run. I wanted to wrap him in my arms and take him away from all of the tests and the needles and the pain. I wanted to scream myself.
But I sat there on the chair with my head in my hands and I cried.
I remember looking up and seeing her sitting in a chair just down the hall. Her little head shining under the hospital lights. She was watching me.
As we walked with our son back up to the NICU she was heading in the same direction.
My husband started to chat with her.
“She’s very worried about her baby” my husband whispered to her. Trying to help this little girl understand why I wasn’t engaging in conversation.
“I know” she said. “Don’t you worry” she continued. “When my Mom was born they told her parents that she wouldn’t live long and that if she did live she wouldn’t be very smart. But guess what? Now she’s a lawyer!” she said.
My husband quietly continued chatting with her until we got in the elevator to go up to the NICU and parted ways. I never actually spoke to her.
I thought of that little girl often after that day.
As I spent hours sitting beside my son’s crib in the NICU, I wondered how she was doing. I prayed that she was getting better. I chastised myself for being so caught up in my own worries that I didn’t answer her when she spoke to me.
Weeks later we were transferred out of the children’s hospital to a hospital closer to home. One morning, as I sat beside him sleeping in his crib, I hear that same little voice, echoing cheerfully through the hallways. She sounded like sunshine and her warmth spread through room. In that moment, I wanted nothing more than to speak with her so I stepped into the hospital hallway.
“Hello” I said.
“Hello” she replied.
“You don’t remember me. But we met a few weeks ago at Sick Kids.” I told her. “You said something really nice to me while I was sick with worry about my baby and I wanted to say thank you”.
The smile that spread across her little face warmed my soul.
“How is your baby?” she asked.
“He’s getting better. Slowly but surely” I said.
Later that evening, as I prepared a tea in the family kitchenette of the hospital I met this little girl’s mother. We chatted briefly, as many parents of sick children do, about our kids’ illnesses and how long we had been in hospital.
Her little girl was battling cancer and had been for quite some time.
We shed a few tears together. I told her that she had an amazing, strong, courageous, kind-hearted little girl. A little girl that was undergoing chemo treatments herself but still showed concern for someone else. She saw someone else in pain and showed compassion even though she was struggling herself. I told her that her little girl was an inspiration and that the kindness she showed me would not be forgotten.
Kindness isn’t always grand gestures. It can be something as simple as a few words of encouragement. It’s easy to forget to be kind. It’s easy to get caught up in our own busy lives, our own messes and our own struggles. It’s easy to become so focused inward that we miss what’s happening outwards.
That day, over 8 years ago, a little girl showed me a simple act of thoughtfulness that has stayed with me and has inspired me to pass on the good.
I don’t know what happened to that little girl. I never saw her or her mother again. I think of her often and wonder if she knows how deeply she impacted my life. I know that wherever she is, she is continuing to inspire others because her soul shone so bright that there was no way she couldn’t.
I also know that for the rest of my life, when I find myself starting to feel down and sorry for myself, when I find that life’s every day struggles are causing me to be anything but good to others I will think of her. I will think of her and I will be kind.