Yesterday was Christmas, and a lot of kids were in hospitals all over this country. About ten, give or take a couple, were in Benjy's psychiatric unit. They must range in age from six to fifteen. They share a few burdens: sadness, emotional dysregulation, various psychiatric diagnoses. Some of them long to take their own lives.
Sometimes I walk onto Unit One and see them dotted around the day room, sitting isolated and downcast, even though there are several of them there together. They do not often seem to connect, at least not when I'm around. Occasionally I hear a laugh. Rarely, a conversation.
There is a jumble of Christmas decorations on one wall -- and some dreydls and menorahs as well, because a couple of weeks ago I had noticed there were none and asked for them, for Benjy's sake. When I arrive on the unit most days, Ben is sitting in a chair under the jumble, looking lost.
On Christmas morning Lars and I arrived to take him home on his pass. Most of the kids who had passes were already gone. Because we do not celebrate Christmas this was going to be a regular day -- a little sadder than most, perhaps, but not a day of celebration and gifts. We had done that, as best we could, for eight days earlier in the month.
Imagine our surprise and joy when we entered Benjy's room and saw crumpled gift wrap and three presents on the floor!
Unit One had not been forgotten. Even these children, the most marginalized of sick children (because mental illness does not excite the same sort of sympathy and generosity as, say, cancer, in many people) received gifts from strangers. People who imagined the pain of being six or ten or fourteen and in the hospital for Christmas.
Not only that, but a local restaurant donated meals -- it looked like about twenty of them there on the front desk -- for the staff working on Christmas Eve.
This is the kind of stuff that makes me cry. I did. I am.
And then I read THIS. You should read it, too.
You might have thought this county was dominated by the cruel and the heartless, by guns and anger, and not gifts.
If, like me, you did, I guess you were wrong.