The ‘Home Of Peaceful Empathy’ or HOPE as it was popularly known was a home for the aged. It had about thirty residents. Some were sick, others were healthy. Some were active, others were confined to wheelchairs. Two things they all had in common: Their children didn’t want to keep them and they all had a limited lease of life left!
Every evening, all the residents would sit outside in the garden. The management would put cane chairs outside. Tea and biscuits would be served to them. It was a daily routine that these elderly people looked forward to. Next door lived a young couple and their ten year old son, Bunty. The little boy was very thin and weak. He seemed to have no friends of his age. Every evening he would come to the old age home and chat with the residents. Sometimes he would bring yellow daisies for them. He would put the daisies into the hair of the old women and into the button holes of the old men’s jackets. He called all the women ‘Grandma’, and all the men ‘Grandpa’. They looked forward to Bunty’s visits just as much as he looked forward to them.
Sometimes Bunty would play the guitar and sing songs for them. One day he told them about the drama that they had at school. He enacted the various roles all by himself. He loved these old people and he loved to see them laugh. Another day he brought his cricket bat and played cricket with them. He loved to see the Grandpa’s turn into little boys.
Bunty’s mother was usually busy with her household chores, but sometimes she would come along with Bunty and chat with these oldies. They would often ask her why Bunty had no friends of his age. She would simply say, “He’s happier playing with you. Perhaps he has got something in common with you.”
One evening the residents waited for Bunty, but he didn’t turn up. The next day too, there was no sign of him. On the fourth day, one old man who was really missing Bunty, pressed the door bell of Bunty’s house. A worried looking mother opened the door. “Good evening ma’am! I was wondering if Bunty is well, we haven’t seen him around for some days. Is everything alright?” The woman hesitated, “Yes, I mean, no, it isn’t. Bunty is sick. Would you like to come to his room?”
The old man followed the lady to Bunty’s room. The sight he saw stopped him in his tracks. A bottle of blood was being transfused into the boy. Next to his bed was a trolley laden with bottles of glucose and dextrose. There were numerous bottles of medicine. There was a nurse on duty. She signalled for them to be quiet. She got up and motioned them to come out of the room. “He has just gone to sleep. He’s been struggling with the pain. Please don’t disturb him.”
The lady said, “Grandpa, Bunty is thalasemmic.” She swallowed to hide her tears, “Every month we take him to the hospital for his blood transfusion. Three days back he contracted a viral. He got a chest infection and had very high fever. We requested the doctor to give him the blood transfusion at home. He has very low immunity. It will take a while for him to get well. The old man said, “He never told us. He came to see us everyday, but he never let us know. Come to think of it, even you never let us know!”
“Grandpa, Bunty’s a strong willed boy. He’d be heart broken if all of you were to pity him. He never wanted to discuss his disease. He’s not able to match up with his peers at school, while playing games, so he opts to play with all of you. It makes him happy, so I allow him to see you every evening.”
The old man was speechless. All the little acts of love; all that sharing and caring; all that concern and laughter from a child who was thalasemmic!
The happiest people in the world are not those who have no problems, but those who learn to live with things that are less than perfect!