I have visited the Pediatric Playroom with Phi Beta Chi five times. I make it a point to keep signing up to go back because of the joy that I see in the faces of the children and in the faces of their family members who appreciate our presence.
However, this is not the only reason why I go back. I also return because Pediatric Playroom challenges me. The first time I showed up to participate; what I really wanted to do was run away. I have never been overly comfortable with kids, mainly because they seem so fragile, and in a hospital setting, they are even more so. Add to that the fact that hospitals are just scary in general. I feared the scenes that I might have seen. To be honest, each time I return I still feel a lingering sense of the initial nervousness, but each time I come out, I have been filled with new memories to treasure. My experience with Pediatric Playroom has shown me how important it is to not let my own insecurities and preferences keep me from serving others.
My goal with this blog post is to share some of my most memorable moments from Pediatric Playroom, starting with the very first time I volunteered. On that day, there was a little girl (most likely in her terrible twos), her arm in a cast yet her body bursting with energy, who taught me how important communication is. Every time anyone in our group asked her if she wanted to do something, she would exclaim confidently, “no!” But if we then proceeded to not do what we had asked, she would get frustrated and upset with us. So maybe no actually means yes? At least in a two-year-olds mind. Multiple times throughout the hour that we were there, this little girl would run up to us, say “hello!” and then run the opposite direction. It wasn’t until about 50 minutes into our time slot that I realized this was code for “Come on. Get up and follow me.” Looking back, I kind of regret that since I was slow to figure this out, I didn’t get to tag along on many of her adventures.
Probably the most rewarding Pediatric Playroom experience I’ve had so far was last semester when I signed up for a two-hour shift. I showed up to the hospital complaining that I’d been unaware of the time commitment when I’d signed up and that surely two hours was way too long to volunteer in a playroom where only a few kids show up. It’s humorous how God threw my attitude into a 180-degree rotation that day. After we arrived, the employee in charge of the playroom approached our group and said that there was a fifteen-year-old girl in the teen room and that one of us could go talk to her if we wanted. I volunteered, even though it was a strange request. Usually, the volunteers remain securely in the children’s room, assuming (perhaps dangerously) that the teens are satisfied to be in their own company. So, I entered the room where the girl was and awkwardly started a conversation that would go on to last the full two-hour shift. It is amazing how the length of the volunteering shift became a non-issue. From this conversation, I learned that she was a competitive swimmer from eastern North Carolina who enjoyed surfing with her family. She had never seen UNC’s campus, only it’s hospital, but really enjoyed that she could order good food right to her room. She thought it was funny that I faint at the sight of my own blood and that when I broke my tailbone while playing soccer the doctors told me to sit on a donut pillow at school. She proceeded to tell me about how she had busted up her knee when she was younger and now has a screw inside it. She told me that her mom was coming back that night from home, and bringing with her a meal from her favourite restaurant. I asked her about school and she talked about the online course work that she was missing while she was in the hospital. She smiled and laughed a lot, and her positivity was inspiring. This non-stop conversation became the highlight of my day and a fun memory that I shared with my sisters as we left the hospital.
A third memory, and the final one that I will share today, is from only a few weeks ago. Phi Beta Chi showed up for our Pediatric Playroom slot and when we got up to the right floor, the employee checking us in seemed to think that no kids were available to come play with us that day. However, in only a short amount of time, three little girls were preparing to make paper plate animals with us. Sisters, Sarah and Ginger, sat down at the table I was at and Sarah quickly got to work on her Giraffe. In typical little sister fashion, Ginger wanted to make a giraffe too. It was a calm, enjoyable time as we provided them with paint and paintbrushes. This is a rather simple memory for me but still one worth enjoying. A few comments that were made that day still stand out to me. First, I remember Ginger enlightening us with the name that she was going to give her giraffe. She introduced him as Coozey. It wasn’t anything profound, but the originality of the name and her spontaneous declaration of it made me smile. Secondly, Sarah and Ginger’s grandmother asked us if we were going to come back anytime soon. These words were the ultimate reward because her clear appreciation of our presence encouraged me that Pediatric Playroom is a philanthropy event worth supporting.
I am very thankful that Sigma Sigma Sigma has set up such a gorgeous room for kids in the Hospital to go to play. I rest in the fact that they give so much attention to these kids in our community. I am also thankful to Phi Beta Chi for giving me the opportunity to participate in philanthropies like Pediatric Playroom. Philanthropic work is often challenging but I enjoy being able to find support in the sisters that participate with me. One verse reminds me why I participate in Pediatric Playroom, Breakfast for Bethesda, the Ronald McDonald House, and other Phi Beta Chi philanthropy events. Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for the many.”