The Gift of Service
When the love that a couple enjoys is robust and full, it demands a wider arena for expression. Their grief in not being able to have their own children got poured into their work with the children they work with. Consider the story of Nick and Vanessa.
Nick: “I have always wanted children. Before we got married, I asked Vanessa if she would be willing to having them. We both agreed that we wanted to be parents. But because of our commitment to our careers and social activism, we decided that we would wait a while before trying for a pregnancy. We were aligned about waiting.”
Vanessa: “When we got to the place where we felt that it was the right time to get pregnant, it didn’t happen. Not having a child hurt for a while, but it hasn’t hurt our relationship. We get that need met in a lot of other ways. We have a lot of interactions with kids through our work. The children of the world are our children!”
Nick: “Every Christmas, Vanessa and I volunteer at a Children’s Hospital near our home. I bring my guitar and we sing to the kids. We love it and the children do too. We perform in the children’s playroom. Of course, only the children who are well enough to come to the playroom get to attend. Then one year, the director of the Healing Arts department of the hospital offered to have us come more often so that we could go room to room to visit the kids who are too sick to come to the play room. I could see that the universe was offering me an invitation, so I said “Yes.”
Vanessa: “What the artistic director was offering us was to become employees of children’s hospital. We are on the road so much that we wouldn’t be able to have a regular schedule. But that wasn’t a deterrent to them. We went through three months of medical checks, background checks, finger printing and finally received approval. Now we go to the hospital whenever we are home from a tour. We play at least two to three times a month and play for between two to four hours.”
Nick: “At the hospital, the energy is very different from being at a concert. Concerts are supercharged. The hospital is a much gentler place. We’re usually able to play for twenty to thirty kids. We play to those who can make it to the playroom, and then we go from room to room and play for the others. We never know what we are going to find. In one room there is a child receiving chemotherapy, in the next room there is a child recovering from surgery; in the next room we might find a child all alone, feeling frightened, or bored or lonely. When we show up in each room, we just tap into the energy that is in that room. Sometimes we sing lullabies, and sometimes only fun high-energy music will do. Sometimes just showing up and being present can de-stress the situation.”
Vanessa: “One time we came into a room where an eight year old boy was having an allergic reaction to a medication. Both he and his mother had a very anxious looks on their faces. The boy was having a very hard time not scratching which made the condition worse. His mother had tried everything and was feeling absolutely helpless. We began by singing soothing lullabies, as the boys mind engaged with the music, it distracted him from his discomfort. As the mother saw this she began to release her discomfort as well. Both quickly calmed down and the mother was so grateful.”
Nick: “In another part of Children’s hospital there is the convalescent center, where there are dozens of kids. Many of these children are bed-ridden their entire lives and many of them are in their bed from the day they are born until the day they die.”
Vanessa: “At first it was difficult to be at the hospital. It was painful to see kids so seriously sick and severely disabled. We may spend up to thirty minutes in a room depending on the need. Some times we sing other times we are a listening ear for parents who need to talk about what is going on. We find that being with these kids and their folks expands our capacity to love.”
Nick: “We know that people’s lives can change in an instant. You can have a perfectly healthy child and in the next moment, they can sustain a brain injury and life for everyone is permanently changed.”
Vanessa: “We’ve been incredibly touched by the power of the caregivers. They not only tend to the illnesses and injuries of the kids, but they tend them with such tenderness and kindness.”
Nick: “We love being a part of this team of care givers and in the Healing Arts department. It is such an honor.”
Vanessa: “With each visit to the hospital there is someone or some experience that stands out. One day that child was Jeff. He was a teenager. When we walked past his room I had a very strong feeling that we were to visit. We however did not start there and our time quickly went by with other children and families. As we were leaving we passed by Jeff’s room, I had another strong intuition to stop into his room. I stopped Nick and asked if we could make the time to visit one more room. When we got there, we found that Jeff was not only quadriplegic, but didn’t have the ability to vocalize. We introduced ourselves gently to him and were diligently looking for indicators of communication. We were being very cautious because we didn’t know if our presence was welcomed and we wanted to respect his preference.”
Nick: “I said, “We’ll sing you a song and if you like the song we will sing you another one. I sang the lyrics of my song entitled, Your Eyes, which says, “I see in your eyes a miracle, a miracle inside of you. I see in your eyes a spark of light, a spark of light in you. And when you smile, you share that light with me. And in your eyes, I see love.” When I finished the song, he smiled a great, big huge, smile.”
Vanessa: “We sang him a lot of songs that day, and it was obvious that he was absorbing the music. Some people are physically limited, but emotionally and mentally fully intact. The visit with Jeff will be with us for a lifetime. It helps us to appreciate the simplest of movements and to remember that love is what we have to give in each moment.”
Nick: “We have the greatest conversations after each visit to the Children’s Hospital. We’re usually physically drained, but our spirit is filled with love. I always feel inspired to write songs when I come back. And I am filled with appreciation of Vanessa. She has such a great passion for whatever she does. She is an angel and has great tenacity, independence, and personal power in the world. She always seeks out growth and looks at herself to see how she can be an even better person. She is a constant learner. She has such a gentle, protective nature and a deep concern for our relationship and a deep concern for how we can give to the world.”
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Bloom, L. (2018). The Gift of Service. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 23, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/relationship-skills/2018/02/the-gift-of-service/