I have a part-time job working for a non-profit organization. Basically, I take foster children all over the state of Kansas to their appointments with counselors, doctors or family. Today, I had the great pleasure of spending a few hours with a little 9 month old girl. (I can’t tell you her name because that would be against the HIPAA regs.) I had to pick her up at 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning at a foster home I had never been to. First time meetings are always a little disconcerting for the kids because we’ve all done such a great job of warning them about stranger danger but infants are as innocent as they can get. This little girl with big blue eyes, brown hair and a pretty pink outfit was handed to me by her foster mom and off we went.
Infants are especially challenging for me because we can’t talk. What I have discovered is the simplest form of communication, holding hands. Well to be more exact, they hold one of my fingers with their little hand. As today’s charge started to whimper ever so softly I reached back to her car seat and left my hand there till she grabbed onto it. She immediately stopped crying and squeezed my index finger as tight as she could. She let go shortly after that and seemed contented for quite a while. I repeated this process every time she cried a little and it worked every time. I think she just needed the slightest bit of reassurance that I was still with her because she couldn’t see me with her car seat facing backwards. One finger was all it took to make her happy. I find that utterly amazing.
In my younger days, I was lousy with infants, even my own 2 kids. When they cried I handed them right back to their Mom or their Grandma or their Aunts or any other available female. There was always some woman who was willing to hold them. I’m beginning to think I missed out on something important. Maybe God has given me this second chance to experience the love of a child, literally first hand. It is truly remarkable and not to be missed by anyone. The realization that one finger is all it takes to make a child feel safe is pretty incredible.
This isn’t the first time I have had this experience in my job either. About a year ago I was driving a 2-year-old to her weekly visit with her biological mother. The first time we met I had to pick her up at a grade school where her foster mom worked. As she came out of the office I knelt on one knee so I could be closer to her level. I reached out my hand and told her my name. She smiled at me while hiding behind her foster mom and then came over and climbed into my arms. I didn’t really know what to do except pick her up and give her a hug. All the women in the office thought it was cute so I guess it was the right thing to do but I was still kind of shocked at how willingly she accepted me. From that day on, she always jumped into my arms and wanted to be carried back and forth to the car. When I brought her back from her visits she wouldn’t let go even when her foster mom was right there ready to take her back. I will never forget those trips as long as I live.
I still don’t know why, at the ripe old age of 56, I am now starting to enjoy the time I spend with little children. They used to scare me a little since I didn’t understand their needs. Now it seems to be much more natural. A simple hug or holding one finger is all I have to do to make my point with them. I’m here, you’re safe and we’re both going to be alright gets communicated effortlessly. Maybe Nietzsche was right, it’s the child in me that wants to play that these kids are connecting with. They sense my eagerness to make them happy and they understand I can be trusted. I wish all my relationships worked like that.
©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.