A Young Boy, a Dying Old Woman and a Moment in Time

The Gift

A Young Boy, a Dying Old Woman and a Moment in Time

I wanted so badly to connect with my sister-in-law who was very close to death, but her once bright alert eyes were unresponsive. The nurse, who had seen the last days of many nursing home patients, told me that Phyllis had decided to let go. She had lived a full life but now, it was her time.

I tried again to rouse her as she sat, slumped in the wheel chair. . “Phyllis! Phyllis.” Her head remained down. No contact. Nothing. Then, I had an idea. If I could bring Mac to see her, I had a hunch that she would respond.

Mac is a twelve year-old boy who I know from my years at the Children’s Village. I had taken him along to see my sister-in-law in happier times. The two of them always hit it off famously. Maybe a visit from Mac might help.

A bright extroverted kid, Mac is irrepressibly chatty. No doubt about it. This kid likes to talk. Fortunately, he speaks with a volume that would make any hearing aid superfluous. There is something about his child-like chatter that strikes a chord in my sister-in-law. Beyond that, the kid has a compassion for people that way beyond his chronological age. I call him an “old soul.”

So, the very next day, I took Mac with me on my visit to the convalescent hospital. I was a little concerned that it would be too hard for the kid to see how Phyllis had slipped, both physically and mentally. Before I took him to her room, I asked the nurse how Phyllis was doing. “About the same,” she said. Then in a sad voice, “I wish you luck; she hasn’t been talking to anyone.”

As it turned out, it wasn’t luck we needed. We had an angel in the form of a 12 year-old kid. Her head was still down when we entered the room. I said, “Look who I brought you, your friend Mac.” The boy immediately chirps up. “Hi Phyllis, it’s me, Mac.” Magically, her head came up and a smile of recognition suffused her face. Phyl’s little friend had arrived and boy, did she know it. .

Their conversation was mostly one-sided: Phyl still could not speak very
well but she followed the boy with her eyes, almost as though she was trying to memorize the bright youthful face of the boy. The two of them connected seamlessly, as though the age difference of almost seven decades was completely irrelevant.

The visit was short because Phyl no longer has the stamina for a long conversation but something beautiful, even sacred, had happened in their
time together. The innocence of a child had connected with dying old age and left his gift at her feet.

The Hunger games, a parable for our times

Hunger Games is a parable for our times

In the “Hunger Games” children are selected to kill other children in a gruesome real-life survivor games spectacle. The annual televised “entertainment” is intended to keep the citizens from any thoughts of protesting their impoverished existence under a despotic government.

It is not by chance that the evil empire should choose youth 18-24 years old as the sacrificial victims of their games. Young people are the energy that drives a nation. They are our hope, our passion, our future. Kill off the youth and you have killed any chance to bring about change in society.

Is it farfetched to see a hidden, albeit softened version of the “Hunger Games” being played out in our midst? Isn’t there an eerie similarity in the way we send hundreds of thousands of our youth to places like Iraq and Afghanistan to be killed or disabled for life?

Isn’t it awkward, at the very least, that, in California, we spend more money to build prisons to warehouse young offenders, (most of whom are being imprisoned for victimless crimes,) than we do to build more colleges and universities?

Given our massive drug problem in this country, why can we never seem to find enough money to fund drug rehabilitation services for our youth and follow-up programs for those leaving prison? Maybe we are not directly killing off our youth but we sure are wasting any potential they may have to turn their lives around. Aren’t we?

Did you notice that we hardly ever speak of “broken families” anymore? We don’t want to face the fact that our easy road to divorce is deeply affecting the lives of our children. Couples split, rationalizing that they don’t love one another anymore. Nobody is hurt, right? Nobody but the kids they left behind.

Too often children from dysfunctional families find themselves being sent to a foster care system on overwhelm. Siblings are separated from one another; kids are bounced from one foster placement to another. Woefully underpaid child-care staff are left without adequate resources to care for the victims of abuse and neglect. With as many as 70% of prison inmates having spent time in foster care, is it any wonder that the system is often referred to as a “pipeline” to prison.

If the national character is judged by the way it treats its children, we aren’t doing very well. Our youth need us to raise a little hell on their behalf. They deserve better health care (40 million uninsured children is not acceptable.) They have a right to the opportunity for a good education; for the chance to grow up in an intact family and to be valued as the future of our country.

Unlike the Hunger Games, we have not planned this giant conspiracy to diss our children. Most of us love our children and are willing to sacrifice for them. But folks, we have to do better.