It is easy to get lost in the hardships of this world. It is easy to see pain and devastation and consequently lose your ability to be optimistic. Within the last couple years, I have faced premature death more times than any one person should. Just before my high school graduation, a woman who had been a mentor, confident and friend died of cancer. A couple months later, I received a call informing me that my childhood best friend had just been killed in a car accident. Although I was able to bounce back from these two deaths, that resiliency would unfortunately be tested again.
On April 16th I awoke to the sound of policemen outside my window. They surrounded our building with guns drawn, screaming commands at people to “GET DOWN!” or “GET INSIDE, NOW!” Worry and fear swept over me. The following week I found myself in a haze as I realized the magnitude of what had happened. Of the thirty-two people who had been murdered, I knew nine. The pain of such loss was excruciating. I went home to parents who wanted to hear my version of the story, but were even more understanding of my not wanting to tell it. By summer break I was physically and emotionally drained. Fortunately, I had a new job at a daycare center to look forward to.
Before summer began, I had images of a utopian playground filled with laughing, smiling kids running free and having fun, but that image was not quite the reality I faced. In the beginning, I was overwhelmed by these children. I simply could not understand the psychology of this constantly bickering, always tattling, never satisfied group of which I was in charge. There was one child, however, who renewed my faith in life.
Four years old and cute as can be, Ryan was my saving grace this summer. I constantly found myself admiring his kind, helpful, eager, and hilarious nature. Rather than cry after a fall, he would laugh and insist everyone play “mah new game callt ‘run n’ fall’!” If other children were upset he would organize a group hug. Though younger and considerably smaller than the others, Ryan had the most amicable personality and infectious smile. He single-handedly restored my image of what childhood had really been.
I used to want to stay a child forever, but life got in the way. The loss I experienced had caused me to forget how to look past the evil to see the good. Now I believe in Ryan. To me, he represents the physical embodiment of truth, hope, love and laughter. When all the kids around him were squabbling and fighting, he laughingly helped them reconcile their differences. He helped me find my inner child, and remember not to take life too seriously. He taught me the importance of resiliency and genuine respect. He re-taught me how to love, even when the world seems so lost in hate. Thank you, Ryan.