Child’s Therapy

Child’s Therapy

From Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul Second Dose

Child’s Therapy

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord.

Psalm 127:3

Beth holds the door open for her five-year-old daughter, Haley, so she can maneuver her tiny red walker into the brightly decorated lobby of the children’s clinic. It is a place far too familiar to Haley. She is well known to the staff. Today is a good day for Haley. Her energy level is uncharacteristically high, as she grips the handles of the walker with her small hands and guides its tiny wheels in the direction of the waiting room. Care Bears dance on her bright pink sweatsuit and blond curls bounce around her shoulders. Her twinkling blue eyes complement the big smile that is on her face.

While her mommy signs her in at the desk, Haley, ever the independent one, looks over the group of children and adults in the room. In a corner a young boy about twelve sits alone, head down, face obscured by his dark blue baseball cap. Haley slowly approaches him. Beth follows her and takes a seat nearby on a couch next to a woman who turns out to be the boy’s mother.

The child’s name is Timmy and his mom and Beth watch as Haley moves closer to him, trying to get his attention. Soon she stands near his chair, smiling at him even as he continues to ignore her. The other children are laughing and playing across the room in the play area, their parents appearing to be unaware of the disfigured boy and the crippled girl. Timmy’s mom tells Beth that he was tragically burned over two years ago when he tried to fill a cigarette lighter with fluid, thinking he was helping his dad. He did not realize he had spilled some of the fluid onto his pajamas and when he flicked the lighter to see if it worked, the pj’s caught on fire. Since that time, the once outgoing, happy little boy had become withdrawn and keenly aware of his disfigurement. There was much scarring on his neck and hands. He always wore the cap to try to hide the ugly, bright pink ridges climbing up to his face, and he wore long-sleeved clothing to cover his rough, scarred hands.

While listening to the story, Beth notices Haley still standing closely, almost protectively, by Timmy, who is now glancing at her from underneath the bill of his cap. Just then, Nurse Anne, Haley’s favorite, walks through the room and calls out Haley’s name. Haley reluctantly moves away from the corner while looking back at Timmy. It is as though she can sense his pain. Anne quietly observes this and reaches out her arms to Haley with tears in her eyes. She lifts the little girl from her walker and Haley snuggles her head on Anne’s shoulder as she’s carried into the exam room.

Timmy’s mother explains how Anne has tried everything to reach her son, but in spite of her persistent, loving efforts, he rejects her and everyone else there.

A short while later, Haley and her mom are preparing to leave the clinic and head for the promised visit to the ice cream parlor. Beth turns to the exit door, but Haley is whispering to Anne, who is kneeling face-to-face with her. The two conspirators, the endearing disabled child and the caring nurse, smile at one another, hug, and then part.

“Just a minute, Mommy,” Haley says.

She crosses the room to where Timmy still sits in his solitary corner. She puts her tiny fingers on his tightly closed fist almost hidden in his jacket sleeve. He lifts his eyes to meet hers and does not pull away.

Haley whispers, “I think you are beautiful.”

Tears appear in Timmy’s eyes as Haley continues, “Every night my mommy prays with me and we ask God to take care of me. Tonight we will pray for you.”

The adults in the room who had previously avoided looking at Timmy are now watching and listening. Timmy looks directly at Haley, then holds his arms out to her. She leans away from the safety of her walker and into his embrace.

Barbara Haile

More stories from our partners