Recently, I found myself observing quietly, keeping mentally strong, and stumbling to put a sentence together. This doesn’t happen too often, so I made a conscious choice to give this sort-of-new emotion a fair judgement. Katie and I went to the Hackensack University Medical Center as volunteers for their “Go 4 The Goal, Kart 4 Kids–which is run through Tomorrows Children’s Fund. This program supplies a snack cart for their in-patent pediatrics unit.
So, what we did is just as amazing as it sounds: we walked around with a rolling cart that had everything from M&M’s, Gobstoppers, and KitKats to Funky Fingers Nail Polish, Legos, and playing cards—there were activity books, Mad Libs, and eye masks, too. If the child/young adult was up to having visitors, we were able to go in and meet them. Sometimes, their parents came out and choose for them…and other patients politely declined. I met two people who I will never forget— and, I’m not sure I learned their names.
The first, a young Spanish kid who was sitting in his room alone. He was a little bit older than the other patients I saw… with tattoos going up his arm, Beats by Dre on his ears, and a forced bright smile every once in a while. He couldn’t eat much because he had sores in his mouth from some of his treatments. He looked for something fun, but passed on the playing cards, shoe laces, and legos. He set his eye on this tiny stuffed animal dog, and smiled a beautiful smile when we told him that he didn’t have to pay for it. He didn’t speak much English, so I was able to say “hasta luego!” as I left… letting him know that I would see him again.
The second was a young girl with beautiful big eyes. She, too, was playing on an iPad and had Beats by Dre headphones. Her brother and sister were in the room with her, along with two family members. It made me smile to know that she had company… people there to occupy her time and support her through this. Her nails were painted with three different colors, and if anyone knows me.. that’s right tup my ally. She chose a really cool neon coloring pad that lets you sketch out pictures… I would have chosen that too. She said thank you and smiled. I expected her to choose the nail polish, and I even tried to push it… but she wasn’t into it. A girl who likes variety, and stands her ground. I like her, a lot.
What surprised me most was that I, Elizabeth Rodriguez, who can talk my way out of speeding tickets and have hour long conversations with strangers…was at a complete loss for words that day. The parents were smiling and strong for their kids, some kids were alone and they smiled too. The doctors made sure to save certain toys and candies for their patients…who they knew would decline the visit today. Nurses, one six months pregnant with her 4th child, laughing with each other, but concerned about the patients who weren’t eating. They had conversations about how to motivate other patients too. A true community of genuinely thoughtful professionals— who loved candy, potato chips, and SuperSnacks.
That day I learned a lot about myself, and the community which grows within a hospital. The staff makes all the difference to those kids–they communicate with families and comfort the patients. The smiles, the supportive words, and the way they interact with family is admirable to say the least. I am grateful to have been part of this experience today, and I look forward to volunteering each month. Although I will represent MySuperFoods Company, I will without a doubt bring other presents to add to the cart. They love iTunes, plush toys, and small crafts that they can play with on their bed tray.
Normally, I’m a perky, strong, and willful young lady with an answer for everything. Today, I met a different side of myself and I really like her too.