Once a month I volunteer with a group of kids through New York Cares. These kids are those that did well in school that month and therefore there are always fresh faces in the crowd. This past weekend I had the privilege of meeting a five-year-old boy who just blew me away.
We were teaching the kids how to cook and he helped me make the dressing for the salad. He had never seen oil and balsamic before, and was wowed at how the oil “pushed everything aside.” Seeing his face light up to something I see daily at dinner, not only made me laugh, but it reminded me to smile at the little things in life.
After cooking we went to the arts & crafts room, while the burgers were in the oven. We were sitting down coloring, where he was copying everything else a girl next was drawing and also critiquing my talents. He kept messing up and getting frustrated drawing crooked lines and flowers that didn’t look like flowers. I showed him the “magic” of markers and how you can just draw right over things to make them perfect again. Wouldn’t that concept be amazing in life? Drawing over things to get a redo.
He then asked if I would come to his birthday party. I said, “I’m not sure, when is it?” He replied, “July 11th and I can call his mom for directions.” I’ll be there with bells on!
He then began to talk to me about his family. He said that he wasn’t allowed to see his Dad anymore and that when his Dad would call his house his mother would tell him to be quiet and she would pretend he wasn’t there. He said he used to go to Church with his Dad every Sunday but now he can’t. He said he misses his Dad. I wasn’t sure what the situation was as to why he wasn’t allowed to see his Dad, so I nodded and tried to take the conversation back to his great picture of the sun, flowers and a house.
However, he kept saying he misses his Dad. I told him I’m sure his Dad misses him too and then started talking about how excited I was to eat the food.
He then looked up at me and said, “My Dad is dead.”
Myself and the other volunteer next to me had no words. This five-year-old boy needed to communicate. He needed someone to talk to and there I was.
It just made me so sad that this is what he is thinking about at five-years-old. It made me sad that that is the memory he has of his father – his mother pretending that he isn’t home. And I’m not one to judge, she probably had a good reason, but might have not realized how much he took away from it. I used to hate that saying when I was growing up, “You’ll understand when you are older.” I don’t know – sometimes I’m pretty sure the kids are the ones who understand and we are the ones who miss it.
Then the most incredible thing happened. He looked up from his paper, which was turning into quite the drawing and said, “Coloring is beautiful.” “Yes it is,” I replied. “Yes it is.”