A tiny child, born into the world ten weeks too early. A child who when finally released from the confines of the humidicrib ten weeks later, was still small enough to fit into a single one of his fathers cradling hands. This tiny child held on through being born so early his lungs weren’t fully developed yet and a severe case of Bronchiolitis. He fought to stay alive in the cold and scary world he was dropped into far too early, cradling this tiny spark of light he had been gifted, with everything he had.
This tiny child became a small toddler who was removed from his mothers care and then placed back into it time and time again. A tennis match volley between horrific foster care placements and his mothers utter inability to care for herself, let alone a tiny child. He was slipping through the cracks of a system, supported only by small moments of love, gifted to him by the heartstrings of carers who passed through his life in ever so brief moments.
This child grew and instead of learning about the love of a family, he learned how to spot an oncoming violent outburst and find the perfect hiding spot where the adults couldn’t reach him. An escape artist after Houdinis own heart. He learned how to pack his favourite toys into a garbage bag as quick as he could, so he wouldn’t leave them behind again when the workers showed up to bundle him into the car and on his way to his next foster placement.
He learned that the hardest part of every day was home time at school, when the bell would ring and all the other kids parents would come into the classroom to give hugs and ask all sorts of questions about how their day was and what they had learned. His eyes would automatically sink to his shoes as if that was a way he could avoid the heartbreak of witnessing those moments shared between everyone but him. He would make his way to the front of the school and hope that the foster carer who dropped him off that morning, was the one picking him up that afternoon. If anyone came at all.
He felt as though he was living in a completely different universe to every one of his classmates, they complained about how awful their parents were because they wouldn’t buy them the complete set of toys that were the current fad. He was just grateful to not have to wrap his arms around his dinner plate in the evening so that his food wouldn’t be stolen from under him.
This child, who had been raised by chaos and violence quickly learned how important small gestures of kindness could be. He learned the enormity of a kind smile shared between two strangers passing each other by on the street. That a small act of warmth in a cold world could mean the difference between life and death, to someone who was ready to take the emergency exit.
A child who had only known instability began to learn the true value of this thing called ‘home’ even if he had never truly experienced one. He was cultivating an internal scrapbook of all the times he witnessed someone turning on the light for someone else who was trying to navigate in the darkness. He savoured those moments like a melting chocolate on his tongue, collecting them like precious objects to be stored away in some safe part of himself the darkness couldn’t get to. He explored all the intricacies of each moment of kindness he witnessed, and used them as glue to begin to fill the cracks left in the foundations of his childhood.
A child, who had only been taught by the outside world that he was expected to fall and become the darkness he was raised in, slowly began learning that the only way to build himself out of the life he had found himself in was to rise, and to shine. To rise, every single time he was pushed to the ground when the world came crumbling down around him. To shine, every single time the world enveloped him in darkness, and he couldn’t see his way through to the other side.
He learned that the most important thing about life was not just the ability to rise after falling to the earth, but to continue to shine a light of kindness and hope for others, even when the easiest thing to do would be to shut off from the outside world that had caused so much pain.
That child eventually grew into an adult who decided with every fibre of his being that he was to rise and overcome his experiences, to shine a light for those who hadn’t learned to to cast one for themselves yet. To convey the importance of compassion and hope and how small acts can change a persons entire life trajectory. One act of kindness doesn’t cost much to give but it can be valued as a gift that shapes another persons entire world. Dig deep, no matter how thick that blanket of darkness gets, continue to make the choice to rise, and to shine.