There are days that I find doing fieldwork with children really trying.
When I walk into a cramped room, and children are strewn about the floor, unoccupied, with dead, long looks on their faces, my heart hurts. When I see many of them, especially those with disabilities, struggling so hard to communicate with us, and I see the ways we all fail them, I have my doubts about God and humanity.
And then there are days like one this week, when I become so utterly consumed in holding the hands of a child with CP who is so eager to walk, and taking each step with her that I literally can’t think of doing anything else. Children are wonderful in the way that they demand our attention, and they force us to put our thoughts at bay to focus on the present, where they live.
It was hours that this young girl and I walked about the tiny living room of her foster mother’s house, toddling past her three foster siblings, and she tipped her head back, laughing at who knows what. But that laughter was contagious. We sat on the floor, and perhaps because I couldn’t understand the dialect her family was speaking, I became part of her wordless word, and in awe of the way in which, despite her inability to speak, she could pick up so quickly on all of my motions, even my mood.
When it was time to leave, I had to hear the words three or four times before they registered. Perhaps this is not the way fieldwork should be done, allowing oneself to become lost in the daydreams, the world of a child.
But I keep thinking if I can do one thing this year, let it be to live like a child, to enter her world, and to be a companion, who, despite all my inabilities to make everything better, patiently and wholeheartedly, walks beside her.