That year Aaryan’s birthday was on a holiday. Though a party with his friends was planned in the evening, but a major part of the day was devoid of any activity for the birthday boy.
While, we were brainstorming about the things we could do to continue the celebrations, right from the morning till night, KG suggested that we visit the SOS Children’s Village. As part of his company’s CSR, he and his colleagues had visited the SOS Children’s Village, a few days ago, for sponsoring the education of senior students. We immediately made plans to visit the place and bought snacks, biscuits, sweets, chocolates and other food items.
We had read enough in the media, seen the pictures on the notice boards of institutions, heard a few stories about children in orphanages. But what we experienced there cannot be described in words.
We were given a tour of the entire property. What we saw there moved our souls. There were some 80 kids of all ages. Seeing a few toddlers was heart-rending, and when one 2 year old started bawling to be in my arms than that of the care-taker, it just broke my heart.
While KG went with the Manager of the Home to discuss some official details, the children surrounded Aaryan and me and asked us if we would like to see their dormitory.
All the kids in the dorm tried to seek our attention. Some showed us their books, some toys, a girl showed her embroidered kurta, and some their drawings. Every child had a smile on his/her face. While, I was chatting with the kids and asking them about their favorite subjects at school or the games they enjoyed, a few boys asked Aaryan, if he would play with them. He agreed readily. While they were playing with the ball, a boy of Aaryan’s age asked him, “How does it feel to stay with your parents? They must love you a lot!!”
I turned around to see Aaryan’s reaction. He was stunned. A boy of 7 must have never thought about this question ever. But it hit him somewhere.
On our way back he had a lot of questions. We told him that there are so many vulnerable children who spend their childhood in orphanages, without the love and care of a family. The lucky ones still get food, clothes, bed, an education and a roof over their heads in such institutions. But there are so many who have no access to even the basic needs and struggle on their own from such a young age. We discussed about how life would be in general for these kids, their experiences, their feelings. We talked about thinking from their perspectives, trying to be in their shoes. We explained how a small effort or a smile or a word of encouragement can brighten somebody’s life…
And that birthday was a starting point of lessons for Aaryan in compassion. It is a ritual to visit SOS Children’s Village and Mother Teresa’s Home, every now and then. At these places, he…
- Serves food to the kids and the elderly
- Plays games with the children at the orphanage
- Talks to the lonely and hurting elderly people at the Mother Teresa Home
- Shares toys, clothes, books with the children
- Smiles at everybody he meets.
Few months ago, we were waiting at the traffic signal. A small child selling some paper napkins saw Aaryan fidgeting with the McDonald’s Happy Meal toy, which he had got a few minutes ago. Before we knew what was happening, Aaryan rolled down his side of the car window and gave the toy to that child. Both the kids exchanged a smile.
They say, compassion is something that can be taught and developed; the earlier, the better! I am glad that my child is learning and practicing this lesson of life from a very young age.