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13 октября 2011

The Child from Another World

The Child from Another World

The best way to make children good is to make them happy.

Oscar Wilde

I come to this park often to write and to read when the weather is good. It is a little place next to the city hospital. Convalescing patients enjoy this place on the warm sunny days. I came one day and walked around to find a bench to sit on. I saw a little girl with disheveled hair sitting on a bench under the tree. She was looking at the sky and she had a dreamy look. She was alone. And she was too little to be alone in the park. She seemed four or five and nobody of the people around looked like her parents. I decided to approach. I sat on the bench next to her and casually said, “Hi.” The girl turned her head in my direction and nodded. “What is your name?” I said. “Valentina”, she answered and went back to her silent looking at the sky. “Where is your mother, Valentina?” I continued. But she just gave me another quick look and did not answer. “Do you live near here?” I asked again. She did not answer. I was pretty positive that she was lost but she did not look lost or uncomfortable or scared. And then she spoke, interrupting my thoughts on what should be done in this situation. She said, “I am staying at the hospital. I think I have a cold.” That was strange, young children with colds do not get into hospitals and she did not look sick. I was puzzled. At that time, a nurse came looking for her. I asked the nurse about the girl and she explained that Valentina was from the city orphanage and that she was staying in the hospital for her annual health checkup. The nurse did not like me. She probably thought that I was another curious individual who took an idle interest in an orphan girl. She was protective. However, I was not doing this out of curiosity. I just caught a glimpse of a tragedy and I was deeply affected by it. I wanted to do something about it and I was not sure what I could do.

Valentina stayed in the hospital for three weeks. I came to see her every day between her breakfast and lunch times. Fortunately, I had more free time in the summer. I felt drawn to her. There was something about her smile that captured my attention in the first place. When Valentina smiled, the smile did not touch her eyes. She told me later that in the orphanage children were taught to smile and be polite because it would make them look more pleasant. And pleasant children are adopted more often. Valentina shared other similarly shocking realities of her world with me. For instance, nobody explained to her why she was in the hospital. She thought that she was sick. Also, when I brought some children’s books that I was hoping to read with Valentina, I learned that she cannot read and does not know the letters. It was shocking because she was almost six and at this age children can read or at least know the alphabet. I started teaching her and gave her many of my own children’s books. Once, I asked her to make a wish and I promised to fulfill it if it was at all possible. She surprised me. She said, “I’ve always wanted to see a real fountain. I have only seen pictures of them. They must be beautiful.” And we went to see a fountain. Luckily, there was one nearby. She was enchanted by the fluid sparkling water and we stayed by the fountain for a long time.

And one day she was gone. I came to the park and waited for her but she did not come out. I went inside the hospital and asked about her. The hospital administrator told me that Valentina went back to her orphanage. I asked for the address and was told that the hospital does not disclose this kind of information to people who were not immediate family. I was devastated. I think I was crying and the woman behind the counter suddenly warmed up to me. She said, “Please, understand. The last thing these children need is a false hope.” I said, “All I wanted was to be her friend.” The woman smiled and hugged me.

I thought about this experience for a very long time, trying to make sense of it. Is it right to shield the orphaned children from the outside world as much as possible? It is true that when you love someone, like your parents, siblings or friends, losing them brings enormous pain. It feels like your heart has been ripped from your chest. And you are bleeding but nobody sees it. I know because I recently lost my father. But is it right to deprive orphan children of experiences in which they can form attachments so that they do not have to go through the pain of losing friends? It feels very wrong to me. On the other hand, I understand that people like me who make a choice to become involved with an orphaned child should be fully aware of the enormous responsibility and a commitment that they are making. And they have to be very honest. I am determined to find Valentina and continue to visit her. I hope that the orphanage administration will allow me. And I will honestly tell Valentina that I cannot be her family, but I can be her friend for as long as she wants me.

 (голосов: 9)
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