Thursday, February 10, 2011

Different Kind of Education

In general, I'm pleased with the fact that I have a graduate degree. I worked hard to get it. But there are some things that my education did not prepare me for. Not even close.

My education did not prepare me for coping with the things I see and deal with on a daily basis. I manage them, because that's my job, and of course because I'm in a helping profession and I WANT to help people. Most days are pretty good. Difficult, but fulfilling. Other days, not so much.

Education does not prepare people for the emotions that rise up at the sight of a toddler with a battered, broken body. There's no way to prepare for the sensation of her hot, damp forehead under your fingertips, as you brush her hair aside, wishing you could also brush away the fever burning as her brain swells and bleeds through multiple skull fractures. Education doesn't prepare anyone to see broken ribs gently rising and falling as a ventilator pushes life-saving air, circulating blood through her weak body. Hazel eyes swollen shut. A gash across a tiny nose. Small hands curled into smaller fists. The rhythmic beeping and pulsing of machines that are doing the work for her.

The machines beep prayers in perfect cadence with the people in the room. "Please. Please. Please." The whooshing of air whispers, "Breathe baby. Breathe baby. Breathe baby."

No amount of education prepares you to see a child, broken at the hands of the people who are supposed to love and care for her the most.

There is love in that room. Love from people who don't know that child. There are prayers for healing. Prayers spilling in as word travels about the horror that brought her to that hospital bed. Education doesn't prepare you for the kindness of strangers.

Education doesn't prepare you for the moment of fluttering eyes or the struggle of cracked lips tugging upward into a tiny smile when she hears your voice. Education doesn't prepare you for the moment her fingers curl around yours, hanging on so tightly that it takes you by surprise.

No textbook, no exam, no pop quiz or project or presentation ever taught me anything about the resiliency of the human spirit or the miracle of healing. And yet, those experiences have been and continue to be the most important education of all.


Cheryl said...

Such a sad story. What kind of adult could inflict that kind of harm on a child? That's not an education anyone should have to bear witness to.

Catherine said...

I wish that we could save all the children.

Jim Latchford said...

Deeply felt, beautifully written.