November 11, 2007


I was watching some of the Free Hugs videos from around the world, when a scene from the one from Portugal brought back a vivid memory.

I was six-teen. On that particular Saturday, I had gone with a group of other girls down to Los Angeles County Hospital to volunteer our time as candy-stripers. This hospital was the one that cared for mostly low income and poverty residents of downtown LA.

With no preparation, we were taken to the pediatrics ward where we were told to help the patients wash up, comb their hair, read to them and help with any other small services that seemed appropriate.

The first patient I encountered was a pretty little black girl who looked as though she could use some loving care. Her face was smudged, her hair tangled, and her hospital smock was dirty. I went up to her and said “Hello”. I told her my name and said I had come to spend some time with her that day. When I asked her name, she did not answer.

I had with me a bowl of warm water, a washcloth and a towel. I asked if she would like me to wash her face and hands. She nodded but said nothing. I began to wash as gently as I could, while speaking to her softly.

All of a sudden, this tiny little child threw her arms around me and began to cling to me with a grip that belied her small size and seeming fragility.

She began to cry loudly “Mommy. Mommy. Mommy!” I was startled by her unexpected behavior and was ill equipped by knowledge or awareness to know what to do. I tried to calm the child as best I could as I tried to slightly loosen her tight hold. A moment later, a very large white nurse came up and while speaking very harshly, wrenched the child from my arms with great force. The nurse instructed me to go to another ward.

When I hesitated, this seemingly heartless woman pointed to the door. As I moved out of the way and started to move toward the door, the child continued to scream; “Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy.” I turned back. The little girl was holding her arms out to me, plaintively crying; Mommy. Mommy. Mommy.” as the nurse held her down.

I stood there for a moment, unsure of what to do. The nursed yelled for me to leave. And, with much regret, I did.

I never saw that child again on any of the future Saturdays I spent volunteering at the hospital, but the memory of the incident never left me. And to this day, I wished I had done something differently. The only thing I have been able to do over the years since was to send silent wishes of love and happiness to this little girl who left such a big impression on my heart.

Posted by Judi at November 11, 2007 6:51 PM | TrackBack
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