The pediatric ward had begun to show signs of life. Nurses were moving in and out of rooms, bringing a morning cup of juice and a fresh IV to children. I glanced around, knowing that I belonged, and was needed. I didn't give the children vile-tasting medicine, or stick them with needles, or give them chemotherapy. This made me a neutral party. The kids didn't kick and scream when I entered the room, because I presented no threat. I delivered books, movies, board games, or took them outside to the playground. I knew I was helping the children in a different way - I was giving them mental support, healing their morale. During my summer of volunteering I learned that it is important for the children to be in good spirits or their treatment doesn't work as well.
I strode toward the playroom, it was 9:00 a.m. and time to open the doors. Suddenly, Billy came racing down the hall on his Big Wheel. I never understood how this kid had so much energy. Other kids began to come, some in wheelchairs, others hopped around on crutches, and almost all trailed an IV stand with them. That day we sculpted animals out of clay and made confetti for the next day's "Christmas in July" party. The kids loved it.
Later in the afternoon, a skinny young kid came walking slowly down the hall. Standing in front of me, the child stared with beautiful blue eyes that seemed to hold all of the compassion in the world. "Hi, my name is Morgan. What's yours?" she said simply. The girl bore the mark of cancer treatment, a balding head.
"My name's Rose. I'm the junior volunteer today. I was about to set up a play store; would you like to help me?" I responded. She flashed a huge smile and nodded shyly. Together we dragged a small desk and two chairs to the entrance of the playroom and placed a toy cash register on top. Morgan looked around, tapping her lips with the tip of her index finger. Her eyebrows scrunched together in concentration as she surveyed the scene.
"We need something to sell," she said with conviction. She walked off, leaving me to stare in awe. I had overlooked the most obvious detail. Morgan returned with a plastic bucket full of M&M's and a handful of plastic sandwich bags. She informed me that this was to be our merchandise. Morgan had seated herself behind the cash register and offered me the seat next to her. I put the M&M's into the bags and Morgan made a sign saying, "M&M's 25c a Bag." It was a brilliant system. Our business was booming. People came from different floors to get their sugar fix. Morgan never lost her smile. I sat and watched while she took control. Every once in a while, Morgan's IV would beep, and a nurse would run over and adjust a couple of things, bringing us back to reality. A moment of irritation would pass over her face, but she was always polite to the nurses. After all, she was still a normal kid, who do not like to be disturbed during their play.
It was nearing the end of my shift and the close of the playroom. Although a nurse told Morgan she needed to take a nap, she insisted on helping me pick up. The money we had made would buy a couple new paint sets. When I said goodbye to Morgan, she reached out and clasped my hand with tiny fingers. I looked at her closer now. She was so thin, but she was beautiful. She conveyed such love and emotion with every movement, she overwhelmed me. I had never witnessed such raw beauty. Would she remember the discomfort during treastment? Would she survive her ordeal? Morgan squeezed my hand with her warm one. It was as if she had heard my thoughts and was offering her reassurance. "Will you walk me to my room, Rose?" she asked with a yawn. When we reached her room, Morgan raised a hand to wave good-bye. I wiggled my fingers and turned away, tears welling up in my eyes. This girl had taught me so much. Although I saw the effects of mortality every time I entered the hospital, Morgan showed me life. She was probably ten years younger, yet had so much more experience. Morgan seemed to be surrounded by only goodness. She had a force-field encompassing her, and I had been lucky enough to step within it. She was teeming with strength. I saw it every time she strained to maintain a smile while doctors badgered her with questions and nurses drew her blood. I drew in a deep breath and in that breath I took in a bit of a little girl's goodness, a little bit of her strength. fl
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.