Uma was a hard shell to crack. She has been at the hospital for a while now and she is the only patient who has ever refused to have her cast painted. She would see kid after kid with their painted cast and I would try to entice her with different ideas of how I could decorate her cast, but she was not having it. I’m not going to lie, this kind of hurt my ego. I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t want to add some color to her white cast. I was determined to get down to the bottom of her aversion to a decorated cast.
She would come to art therapy and she would draw or paint, but she was mostly very serious while doing it. The truth is, I wasn’t so concerned by the fact that she didn’t want her cast painted as by the fact that she seemed to have erected a barrier to protect herself from the outside world. The fact that she seemed to be so guarded. I wanted to be able to get through to her. Today, I sat with her and started drawing different pictures on a piece of paper that I thought might catch her interest. After quite a few pictures, she cracked a little smile. Much to my amazement, she said she changed her mind and that I could paint a unicorn on her cast! Of course, unicorns are pretty awesome, but I don’t think that it was the whimsical nature of the unicorn that caught her attention. I think it was the steady persistence that eventually caused her to let me in.
One of the things that often blows people away when they visit Niger and the hospital, is how open the kids here are. How they are so quick to get excited when someone comes to visit, and how quickly they latch on to visitors who show them even the tiniest bit of kindness and love. I think this is definitely true. The kids here are so ready to give love and to receive love. Sometimes it seems like they are just waiting for an excuse or opening to come and give you a big hug. But there are also other kids that act differently. They are not as carefree. They might come off as angry or sad and they might push you away altogether. These are not the kids that stick out in a crowd of happy, bubbly kids. These are the kids that avoid the crowd, the kids that, for whatever reason, need more time and patience, and a little extra love and care. Sometimes they’re just waiting to see if you to will make the extra effort to come and find them. To look beyond the crowd and seek them out. Sometimes it is discouraging when you make an extra effort, and it feels like a hopeless cause when your efforts fail time and time again. But it is worth the effort. These kids are worth the effort, and they are worth pursuing. Every kid, whether they show it or not, wants to be loved and cared for. And often, the ones who act like they want it the least, want it more than anyone else.