“I think Sunday night is the saddest night of all. The weekend is over and work is looming in the background. You know that you can’t stay up too late because you have to wake up early the next morning. And you know that you’ll feel suicidal on the first few minutes (or hours) of work, asking yourself why you’re still there, and spending the rest of the day pondering on this question.”
I wrote this entry in my journal last night. Lately, my weeks had started more or less with this same miserable tone – weekends seem too short, coupled with bouts of homesickness after my regular Saturday night telephone conversations with my family, and I am not looking forward to Mondays anymore.
Today was no exemption. In fact, it was even worse because of my flu-like symptoms and So Cal’s unpredictable weather. I woke up feeling so tired and lethargic and I wanted to call in sick but I remembered that it’s Monday and my school kids missed so many Mondays already (because of official holidays), so unwillingly, I dragged myself out of bed and went to my school site.
When I arrived at school, it was absolutely freezing, and I mentally kicked myself for not wearing a thick-enough jacket. I was so lost in my own despondent state that it took me awhile to realize that one of the kids (though not mine) was banging his head on the floor while others are crying or climbing on top of tables. Confronted by this chaos, I assumed my usual therapist role, and by lunchtime I had almost forgotten about my aching limbs and congested sinuses. Also, it helped that I had a 30-minute break over lunch, chatting with my friend/partner-in-crime Lori about everything other than work – from her lovely daughters to my plans of going home in the summer.
And then it happened.
As our usual routine, Peter (one of my kiddos) and I started “getting our muscles ready” at the playground before doing fine motor activities. Peter is slightly overweight, he does not like to participate in challenging gross motor tasks, and has difficulties with social interactions. We’ve been working on his ability to access some playground equipment and to interact with his peers appropriately.
Today, while Peter was slowly motor planning his way through the climbing structure, some second graders from a regular ed. class came and joined us. Two of them, Andy and Laura, were athletic enough to do some acrobatic stunts (that they told me later as ‘front-flips’, ‘back-flips’, and all those other flips that I can’t even remember) while hanging on to the climbing structure. I prompted Peter to initiate a conversation with them and soon these kids started to help him climb, demonstrating some daring moves that I wouldn’t even try myself. Initially, I was a bit nervous, I didn’t know how Peter would react, for in the past he used to throw a tantrum or give up altogether when faced with challenging activities (especially in social situations). But much to my surprise, he didn’t. And although he wasn’t able to perform some of their ‘stunts’, at least he tried and he looked very pleased with himself.
I was very proud of Peter, too. And I marveled at how patient the other kids were with him. Unlike us ‘grown-ups’ (to borrow a term from Antoine de St. Exupery’s The Little Prince), with our preconceived notions of how things should be or shouldn’t be, these kids did not see Peter as someone ‘different’ or someone with ‘special needs’, but rather, they treated him as they would any other kid, not setting up limitations for what he can do and even challenging him a little. I looked at them, happily taking turns and doing those crazy flips, and I knew that I will always remember that moment. It wasn’t even extraordinary or miraculous, but I was deeply touched by their openness, their uncomplicated way of relating to each other. They teach me, time and time again, to slow down, to pay attention, because it’s in these little moments that life will amaze me the most.
Earlier, I asked myself why I’m still here. Now I remember.
On a lighter note, I finally got my Born into Brothels DVD from Amazon today and I’m so excited to watch it again. This is one of the best (if not the best) documentary feature I’ve ever seen. I don’t want to give away too much, but it’s about a New York-based photojournalist (Zana Briski) who taught photography to the children living in Calcutta’s red light district. Given my concerns about cultural competency, I didn’t want to fall in love with this film. I wasn’t too sure if Zana Briski was there for the right reasons. But in the end, the children won me over, they looked so alive and so happy when they were taking pictures. Of course, because I went to USC and because I studied OS, I can’t help but look at this documentary from an occupational perspective – it is definitely a testament to how meaningful occupation (photography) can help children make sense of their lives and empower them to change their narrative amidst a bleak and desolate world.
Here’s my favorite picture, taken by Suchitra, which was also chosen by Amnesty International as a cover for their 2005 calendar:
Girl on the Roof
Learn more about Born into Brothels and Kids with Cameras here.
*To protect client confidentiality, no real names were used in this blog.