Friday, March 1, 2013

My Best Christmas Gift Ever

This gift is from P, a grade 4 student who cried his heart out during a workshop for children of overseas workers (sometimes I give formation seminars for members of transnational families). I couldn't stop hugging him during the sessions; he looked so fragile. For some reason, his pain touch me to the core. I felt instinctively protective of this particular boy. Odd, considering that there were 9 other kids in my small group who were as distraught as he was.

After the more emotional bit of the session, he insisted on sitting beside me as our small group played a short game. I was touched by how he obviously wanted to be with me as much as he could. The game involved listing down models and makes of cars. It's an all boys school, so that's their idea of fun, and I'm game for anything the kids would suggest. He charmingly said to me: "Ate, tatabi ako sa 'yo para mabulungan kita ng sagot." ( "I will sit with you so that I could whisper the answer to you") He probably thought that I couldn't possibly know anything about cars. I was "old" and a girl to boot. He felt responsible for me. Little did he know I have three nephews, one of whom is a toy car aficionado. I held my own. After three runs , he exclaimed, sincerely surprised: "Ate, magaling ka pala dito!" ("You're actually good at this!") I just grinned at him. Funny how odd things can earn you the adulation of a pre-teen boy.

He wrote a gut-wrenching letter to his parent who works abroad. I encouraged him to read it in front of the class but he refused. I did some cajoling but he was adamant. Which was fine; it's not a requirement. I just thought that it was a wonderfully crafted letter with very real emotions that it's a shame if others don't get to hear it. The other kids read their letters out loud. I thought that was that. But when the workshop was over, he approached me, wearing a forlorn look on his face. "Ate, pabasa mo na lang sa iba yung letter ko para marinig nila,"  ("
Just let somebody else read my letter so that the others would hear my story") he said, glassy-eyed. I didn't have the heart to remind him that the session has wrapped up and people are already going back to their classrooms --- it's too late. I handed him the letter, smiled, and explained that it's such a lovely letter that the best use for it is to give it to his parents. It's such a sincerely written letter, I said, that surely it would touch anyone who reads it, as it has touched me.

I don't know if he was sad because he missed an opportunity to share or he feared he has disappointed me: a person he just met some 5 hours ago. I have a feeling it's the latter. I felt guilty for pushing. I gently held his face while I clarified: "Hindi galit si Ate Kay sa iyo ha, dahil hindi mo binasa yung letter." My heart broke as I said it. Some kids just badly need someone to be there, that the opinion of a kind stranger can matter so much.

The Christmas message wasn't part of the workshop. But on his own he decided to make me one. I feel honored. Honored and strangely enough, consoled. I wasn't feeling well that day but I pushed on, and he just made all the stress worth the trouble. He is a lovely kid; I hope I can see him again. Furthermore, I hope he remembers me when I do. His drawing is presently on my wall, and as early as now I am declaring it the best gift I received this Christmas.

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