There is one story that I would like to share with my readers and it is a story of hope, incredible strength and inspiration. It is a story of amazing courage and perseverance.
When I was 16 years old, my mother took me to The Hussein Center for the Physically Handicapped in Amman where I volunteered with a good friend of mine for the summer. I had visited that place during a school trip that very same academic year and fell in love with a beautiful orphaned baby boy who was standing in a crib holding out his arms begging me for a hug.
It just so happened that my friend's mother used to volunteer there and she suggested to mom that we both work there during the summer.
We used to be picked up by the Center van and dropped there early in the morning. We did our duties, working with the students who were all physically handicapped and then after working hours, we would jump over the wall to get to our club to have a swim before being picked up by our mothers.
Our duties ranged from teaching the kids, playing with them and then the hard part, getting them ready for their pool session. We had to undress the kids, get their swim suits on, carry them to the pool, lower them... and then after their swimming session was done, carry them out, shower and dry the little darlings, and then dress them again before taking them back to class. It was a hard job but I got so much satisfaction from all of it. The children, despite their 'handicap' were always smiling, they were always happy and cheerful. Not one day passed during that summer did I see any one of them sad or angry. They left such a huge impression on me to the extent that I knew then and there what I wanted to do with my life. I first wanted to work with children and second I wanted to teach, help out and make a difference. I wanted to learn from them... learn from their pure innocent souls. They inspired me!
Even though the above kids were a ray of sunshine in my teenage years, there was one little girl who truly made the biggest impact. I remember my mother telling me that working there might be hard as I might see kids or adults who needed help or who were not blessed with every limb working, or were not mentally capable of doing what I was blessed to do. She cautioned me not to take it to heart and be strong, that these children needed someone to be happy around them and help them with a smile.
One day, while all the other beautiful children were out on their break, I roamed around the classrooms checking if there were any left. There was one little boy in a wheel chair who had to stay inside as his bones were fragile and any bump could cause them to break and another little girl whose skin was all covered in gauze and she wore a thin white cloth cap to protect her head. I think she had leprosy or maybe another skin disease which had begun to eat away her flesh and bones. She had already lost her fingers and palms and all she had left were her wrists. She was such an adorable little girl with beautiful big green eyes.
After my usual greetings, I sat down beside her and watched her draw and color the most perfectly shaped red apples... these were not just ordinary apples... they were not big apples that would make it easier for her to color... these were tiny apples with green stems on a tree. Now can you imagine how she could have done that?
Think of this first.... We need our fingers to hold a crayon or colored pencil... We need our hands to hold the paper in place while we drew and colored all this.
Now how do you think this inspirational little girl did all that with no fingers, palms or hands?
Well ... picture this... She had placed the paper on the table... picked up the crayon with both of her wrists which were straight now, held the crayon tightly. between them... then leaned forward and placed her forehead on the paper to stop it from shifting around... and proceeded to draw and color the apples while looking at what she had done upside down.
The image of her doing that and the image of those beautifully drawn red apples have never escaped my mind since I had the pleasure of witnessing it 22 years ago. I will never forget her beautiful face. I will never forget how the teacher told me that her brother suffered the exact same thing. I will never forget the small miracles of life.
I went back home and told my mother about her. She cried.... I didn't... I was taken by her... taken by her courage, her innocence, her love of detail, her perseverance... by so many things that I cannot explain or put in words.... She touched me... Even now, and as I am writing this, I am shaking my head in awe of her. She still has a huge effect on me.
I never knew what had happened to her after I left the Center at the end of the summer, even though I did visit it a few times after.... but to think that she still has an effect on me every time I think of her must mean that she was a very very special little girl... maybe she was an angel sent to teach people never to give up or allow weaknesses or disease to eat you up as her disease did to her... I do not know but every time I encourage my students and even my own children, to keep trying and never give up, I have her on my mind.
My favorite quote is "Do not be afraid of failure... It is a stepping stone to success."