As a 19-year-old, I was advised to take up volunteering in order to beat clinical depression. A month into my year-long association with an organization for visually-challenged children, I had a differently-abled four-year old come up to me after my session with them, throw her tiny arms around my neck, and whisper ‘I love you’ into my ears. All because she’d loved the song I’d taught them that day. No one had ever said those three magic words to me in those 19 years. Not even my boyfriend of three months.
It changed me as a person, opening my heart and healing my wounds. I’ve been associated with differently-abled kids in many ways over the years, and each moment spent with these tots has taught me something profound about life. When I first began engaging with these kids, I’d often return feeling exhausted and frustrated (kids can be unmanageable, right?), and every time I’d vow never to go back. But the next weekend would arrive and the thought of spending some time away from my mad life would drive me back to those children. Today when I look back, I feel glad that I kept going back, because without these special kids, I’d never learn some basic truths about life that we grown-ups seem to forget.
It takes very little to be happy
Grownups have high expectations from life. Very often, we may have all the comforts of the world yet be unable to feel happy because of the aspirations and expectations we tend to burden ourselves with. Children, on the other hand, are happy with little things. A new song, a different story, a run in the park, a bag of candy… that’s all it takes these kids to be happy. When I gifted a five-year-old a Speak and Spell toy, his whole day turned around. When was the last time such a little thing brightened our day?
Love is for all
Children love without boundaries. They help another up when they fall, they share their candies with someone who’s sad. They are inclusive, encouraging, and their kindness extends towards all. Throughout my time as a volunteer, I’ve seen kids reaching out to another child, irrespective of their status, background, race, or color. How often do we find such a nonjudgmental grownup?
Live in the present
Children do not worry themselves with the thoughts of tomorrow. They are content living this day to the fullest. As a person who worries about needless things, I have learned from these little people that all we need to focus on is this moment. Tomorrow will take care of itself. And seriously, when did worry ever get us anywhere?
Show emotions freely
As adults, we tend to bind ourselves in restrictions. ‘This is proper, that is not.’ ‘Do this, don’t do that.’ Children are not familiar with the restraints that exist in the adult world, and show their emotions openly. If they feel happy, they laugh and clap. If they feel sad or scared, they cry. If they feel angry or annoyed, they sulk and make faces. We spend such a lot of time measuring our each action and reaction. What if we could be as spontaneous and straightforward as kids and just say whatever we felt? What if we could openly laugh or cry without caring who’s judging us?
It’s okay to have fun
Making a mess is fun. Dancing in the rain is fun. Splashing in mud is fun. Yes, you’ll have to clean up, but imagine the good times you’re having and the memories you’re making in the process. Children are the prime example of how to make light of every situation, without worrying about the consequences. There’s too much stress all around anyway. Why not just let everything go for a while and have some fun?
Life is simple
For children, the future is about endless opportunities. For some, it’s about being a vet, or a doctor, or the next great baker. For others, it’s about being just like their daddies or mommies when they grow up. I’ve seen terminally-ill children planning their future. I’ve met wheelchair-bound kids with cerebral palsy dream of becoming the next Taylor Swift or the next J K Rowling. Their enthusiasm about the future is something so hard to find among grownups. For us, the future seems scary. For them, it’s about a world full of love and equality and chocolates and candies. Sometimes we need to learn all over again how to look at life simply.
The love I received from these differently-abled kids made me believe in life again. I remember one of the kids asking me if happy endings really exist. I answered they do. Because they really do.
Cynthia is a freelance writer, blogger, and author. She shapes web content for businesses, solopreneurs, and creative professionals, and guides new writers to reach their full potential. She loves Nature, animals, and children, and is involved with a number of causes to make life better for the less fortunate.