During the summer between junior and senior year of high school, I volunteered in the play room of the children's oncology (or cancer) unit at the local hospital. To say it was a learning experience would be an understatement.
Understandably, anyone working there had to have security clearance each time we entered, with colored IDs. Those were our only way in, so keeping them safe and accessible was crucial. My favorite was the wind up key chain lanyard that would spring back when let go. Some wore plain lanyards, others had more interesting, beaded lanyards. Each day we checked in and went to our stations.
Those children's immune systems were so weak, that anyone who came in contact with them at the hospital was not allowed to wear make up, or nail polish for fear that it might flake off, be inhaled by one of those children and give them horrible infections. I watched as little boys and girls waited in the play room for their siblings to have spinal taps or bone marrow transplants.
I did my best to bring joy to those children's lives, and it still amazes me that little children who go through so much can still find the strength to smile. I am amazed at the strength of parents to hold back their tears just a little longer and return that smile, not knowing how much longer their little one's smile will grace their presence.
I was able to see some of the most compassionate doctors and nurses care for these children as gently as possible. It was wonderful to see the love those physicians had for children that they might have only recently met but grew to know and love more than one would think possible in such a short amount of time.
You never know the pain and sorrow such tragedies can bring until it hits close to home, but I am grateful for that little window of understanding I was given into the lives of children who were much stronger than I will likely ever be.