The Gift of Childhood

Rebekah - Romania
Entered on March 9, 2009

The gift of childhood

If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in. ~Rachel Carson~

I believe in the importance of childhood.

Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved to hold, play and take care of babies. Whenever my parents and I would go to a conference, I would often offer to help with the child care. The mothers would hand over to me happy, smiling, active babies that would pull at my hair and grab anything that was within their reach. Engaged and curious eyes went from me to the environment around them, showing that they wanted to know all they could just by looking.

However, I soon experienced something that changed my outlook on the life of a child. In sixth grade, I started volunteering at a hospital for abandoned babies. The hospital was old, grey, shabby and depressing. As I walked through the corridors, the smell of cigarette smoke still lingered in the musty air; young, pregnant women strolled up and down the hall in bathrobes and slippers. Walking into the small, colorless room of helpless, innocent babies sent a wave of sadness through me. Tiny cribs without mobiles, bumper pads, or stuffed animals lined both sides of the room.

The difference was striking between these babies and the other babies that I had taken care of. All they did was just lay in their small, hard, empty crib for almost 24 hours each day. Most of them did not even cry because they had learned that crying was useless because no one would come and comfort them. The sides of their heads were as flat as boards because they did nothing but lay on their sides, even to drink their bottles.

It broke my heart to see the conditions they lived in, so different than what I was used to, and it caused me to go straight for the first baby and gather him into my arms. That day planted a seed for my belief and I knew that I had to respond. I started to go there once a week and give my time and love to these abandoned babies.

These experiences at the abandoned baby hospital led me to believe that all babies should have at least one adult that cherishes, cares for, and loves them, just like in the Rachel Carson quote. These babies did not have a mother or father who was going to love them and guide them through life. I believe that each child should experience the gift that only loving parents can offer them. I realize that in reality, some children are denied this gift so I want to offer it to them as much as possible before it is too late. This belief in the importance of childhood has spurred me on to pursue volunteering at more children’s hospitals and homes here in Romania and possibly even a future career involving children.

I want to be the person who offers this gift to children: the “joy, excitement, and mystery in the world we live in.”