Imaginary Smiles

red tricycleToday’s story isn’t so much funny as it is a reminder of how unexpected experiences in life can touch you in dramatic ways and make you stop for a moment in time and realize what is truly important. This weekend, my heart was touched by Ben.

Ben is only two years old.

He is also one of the younger residents at the local not-for-profit organization serving foster care children who have been removed from their homes due to physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse, abandonment or neglect.

Little one’s girls scout troop teamed up with an older troop for a service project funded by the proceeds they received from all that work selling cookies. We arrived at the facility, located on a vast plot of land deep within the tranquil woods, with the mission to serve up some fun.

About 23 kids ranging in age from nine months to about thirteen were treated to pizza, dessert, a few rounds of bingo, and gift baskets full of toys and books for each home unit. The girl scouts were to partner up with the younger ones to help them play.

As the kids excitedly ran into the festively decorated meeting room, I felt a hug on my leg. Looking down I found the sweet, smiling face of Ben looking up at me.

He skipped over to take a seat at his normal dinner chair out of routine, and I took the seat next to his to help him play Bingo. More interested in wrapping his tiny hand around two of my fingers, he wasn’t much for conversation. Following my instructions, he would fold the tab of the numbers.

His sister arrived to sit by his side. Obviously wiser than her three short years, she lovingly checked to make sure he was alright as he adoringly stared at her as if she was his whole world. Obviously her presence was a comfort to him.

After Bingo was over, Ben suddenly had a change in attitude and shot me a scowling look while pouting in the chair.

Teasingly I asked, “Ben…are you sitting on your smiles?”

Laughter erupted from his tiny mouth as he leaned to his side in order to grab up the invisible smile beneath him. Again and again he motioned that he had more smiles he was sitting on as he giggled and placed them on his face while saying “More smiles”.

Leaning down to his level, I softly whispered, “Ben, if you are ever feeling grumpy or sad, just remember it’s because you are sitting on your smiles.”

Later we were all out on the playground, and Ben walked a red, pedal-less tricycle around a small concrete circle and playfully attempted to run me over a few times saying “gotcha!”

The lack of pedals made it impossible to ride properly, and I remembered I had just donated a tricycle months earlier. I wished I still had it to bring to Ben. Not even beginning to imagine what trauma these angels have endured, you want to reach out and hug them all…and give them the world.

All to quickly it was time to go, and I walked over to Ben, still circling on the sidewalk. “You take care, Buddy. OK?”

He turned to look at me with a sad expression and then motioned for me to wait. He dismounted the trike in order to remove a lone imaginary smile from the seat. Placing it on his face, he grinned from ear to ear.

These kids had a rare treat, the caregivers felt special, and 15 girls scouts saw what it’s all about.

In the journey of life, everyone deserves pedals. I’ll see that Ben gets just that.

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Comments

  1. Hi
    You truly say, in the journey of life, everyone deserve pedals. Very impressive and heart touching post i really appreciate you on this. Thanks .

  2. Kim Skiiba
    Twitter:
    says:

    Beautifully written from a beautiful person inside and out. Thanks for making me cry before I have even had coffee. Love you!

  3. Allan Douglas
    Twitter:
    says:

    Wonderful story, beautifully written. Thanks for sharing it! Makes me want to make up some pedals: everyone deserves pedals.

  4. He was soooo sweet. It just breaks your heart to know those kids have been through hell. I cried the whole way home thinking if I were rich I would have taken his sister and him in. I’m crazy enough with 3 🙂 Can you imagine?

    • This is why if I ever decide I want kinds, I won’t have my own, I’ll just adopt, plenty of kids out there in need of education, love and attention…I see no reason in populating this sad world even more since there are perfectly good children out there in need of a family.
      Cristian Balau recently posted..Iron Work in ChicagoMy Profile

  5. Very powerful, Melinda!

    I’m glad there are people like you out there helping these children. The picture of the tricycle just adds even more emotional punch.

    If I weren’t just a 2-dimensional cartoon, I would cry. Aw, shucks…

  6. Awww, now there’s a sweet story. Great stuff, great way to play with the kids and I wish you could have gotten a picture of little Ben and his sister. So sad, a bike without pedals. I bet it broke your heart at the same time.
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  7. Charlenevans09 says:

    Very inspiring story from an inspiring woman.. Thank you for sharing this story. My heart really touched by this boy. I can’t imagine why there are parents that beats and abuse their children.
    Charlenevans09 recently posted..Surgical GlovesMy Profile

  8. What a strong and a heart touching experience you have Melinda. Some time I will feel bad to leave (if I were in your positions). Thanks for showing careness to those children.

  9. A very moving story. Wish all good things come to Ben and his sister, very lovely kids.

  10. Heidi19 says:

    This is a beautiful and touching story. Very well written and powerful! Thank yo so much for sharing this with us.
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  11. Oh, this was so precious! I loved how you said he was sitting on his smiles. I have never heard that expression. I’m totally going to use it. He won’t be sitting on any when he gets those new pedals. 🙂
    Kelley recently posted..Life Cycle of the Shoe: A Flowchart (and Finding the Funny #17!)My Profile

  12. I was moved by this story, Melinda. What children need is more care and more love. No body can do what you have done. I hope I can do this and bring a change in someone’s life
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  13. Very heart touching story. To have care for others is a great virtue especially for kids. We should be very polite and caring for all children especially kid like Ben
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  14. I have been enjoying your site for a while now so I have nominated you for the Illuminating Blogger Award for informative, illuminating blog content. If you’re interested in participating, you can check out the details at my site … http://www.foodstoriesblog.com/illuminating-blogger-award/ … Hope you’re having a great day!
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  15. That is the most touching thing I’ve read all day. I’m so glad you were able to bring some happiness to Ben and the other kids!
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  16. Very touching Melinda, You will have to let us know if you see him again.
    I’m curious why he lost his smile in the first place, maybe he was missing your attention.
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  17. this story is just beautiful thanks for sharing well done!!!

  18. I’m not sure how I missed this post, Melinda, but I’m glad I finally found it. As he grows, Ben may n0t remember you in detail, but I imagine you’ve changed his life for the better. This is a beautiful story, wonderfully written.
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  19. Hi Melinda,
    I think it was a wonderful day for the girls. It is so important to ‘show’ them what a difference they can make in someone’s life. Ben is a perfect example. Cheers to you for helping everyone that day.
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  20. Oh, this is a very touching story. The kids, they have a whole world in their head, if they just live with what’s on their minds, it’s very dangerous for their characteristics, what they always need is the love and care of people around.
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  21. What a beautiful story! That little Ben seems like an old soul. Isn’t it funny how those moments you think you are helping someone else end up doing the same for you. I suppose it’s all part of some plan of the universe to ensure that those who extend themselves for others never get depleted. Thanks for sharing this.
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  22. What a touching story. It really hit home. I have come across many Ben’s on my journey and I was a “Ben” on different occasions in my childhood. It was people like you that I cherish for the few moments they made such an impact on my life. That is why I try to do all I can with what I have in order to hopefully make a difference in someone’s life.

    Thanks for the touching story.
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  23. Ben is such an angel. All these boy are. And you Melinda, you are such a kind woman. Almost nobody does the job you are doing. You go to these people who needs care, who needs so hard these smiles and who unfortunately have hard so hard and unfair life.

    A lot of us look at them like shadows, we know they exist, we know they are suffering, that somebody should help them but almost no one goes there and do something with their own hands. Thank you for help this world and for help of this people. I want to read more here!
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  24. I’m on my second kid now. My oldest would throw her tantrums and I eventually learned to ignore them. If I have something in the cart for her I take it out. I make sure she sees me doing this. She throws one last huge tantrum and that’s the end of it. I’ve also had to leave her in the isle to throw her tantrum. Of course I always stay where I can see her but so that she knows that I’m not there watching her. It embarrasses her and she comes to realize that it didn’t work for her. I’ve also had to leave what I had and come back a later time to do my shopping. It confuses her and she pleads to not leave. I might sound rash but I can tell you if you don’t stand your ground your going to have more trouble than you need. I can also tell you that just the other day I caught myself yelling for no real reason at my daughter (she’s 5 1/2 now). I asked myself “why did you do that?” I talked with her and asked her if she could help me be a good mommy by doing what I asked her. I’m pretty sure right there is where I found our “happy medium” because our home is much more relaxed. She may not always do what I ask her to do but she does her time outs more willingly. There is a whole lot less yelling and screaming going on in our home. There isn’t a strong need for control in our home. Demanding has become almost non existent. There are a whole lot more smiles and doing things out of doing them not because you were told to do them. Also, being inventive on how you do things really helps out. If one thing doesn’t work or one thing you thought worked but now doesn’t, try doing it a different way. If you are at your wits end, call someone or go somewhere wher you can get a moment to yourself and your child is in a safe place (ie: at home, in their car seat in the parking lot, grandma’s house). The more in control of yourself you are, the better able you are to handle your kids!
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  25. A very moving story
    nice one

  26. Sometimes i secretly hope something will happen to someone random around me, so I can show the world how much I want to help and how much I want to sacrifice. Thanks for sharing this very touching story!

  27. I’m on my second kid now. My oldest would throw her tantrums and I eventually learned to ignore them. If I have something in the cart for her I take it out. I make sure she sees me doing this. She throws one last huge tantrum and that’s the end of it. I’ve also had to leave her in the isle to throw her tantrum. Of course I always stay where I can see her but so that she knows that I’m not there watching her. It embarrasses her and she comes to realize that it didn’t work for her. I’ve also had to leave what I had and come back a later time to do my shopping. It confuses her and she pleads to not leave. I might sound rash but I can tell you if you don’t stand your ground your going to have more trouble than you need. I can also tell you that just the other day I caught myself yelling for no real reason at my daughter (she’s 5 1/2 now). I asked myself “why did you do that?” I talked with her and asked her if she could help me be a good mommy by doing what I asked her. I’m pretty sure right there is where I found our “happy medium” because our home is much more relaxed. She may not always do what I ask her to do but she does her time outs more willingly. There is a whole lot less yelling and screaming going on in our home. There isn’t a strong need for control in our home. Demanding has become almost non existent. There are a whole lot more smiles and doing things out of doing them not because you were told to do them. Also, being inventive on how you do things really helps out. If one thing doesn’t work or one thing you thought worked but now doesn’t, try doing it a different way. If you are at your wits end, call someone or go somewhere wher you can get a moment to yourself and your child is in a safe place (ie: at home, in their car seat in the parking lot, grandma’s house). The more in control of yourself you are, the better able you are to handle your kids!
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  28. Its a beautiful story. In the final scene it makes me tear. But above all, the story makes attract upto final stage.
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  29. May 24 2011: Yes! The time this effect really hit home for me was weirdly in an interview about making songs for a Gorillaz album, and trying to get a vocal quartet to sound like the Beach Boys. After trying and failing to get the right sound, this guy finally hit on the idea of recording three of the parts smiling and one frowning, and bingo – that was the sound he was looking for. That story has really stuck with me. My default expression, I realized back in high school, is one of seriousness, to the point where my friends would ask me what was wrong while I was just lost in thought staring off in space. I wonder how this has affected my emotional development over the course of my life. I try to smile more consciously now, but it’s a slow process. Often I start by focusing on my breathing, then moving to the smile, and on to the people and environment around me (even if it’s just me still sitting in front of my laptop). As the first reply said, we’ll have to figure out how to express it more integrally over these interwebz!
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  30. Today is an unusual day, at least according to the calendar. But we have the opportunity and perhaps the obligation to make today remarkable, regardless of what the calendar says. Of course, we could just do the things we always do and today would just be one more day.When my friend Richard found out that he had terminal throat cancer and terminal lung cancer (does anyone really need TWO terminal conditions?) he decided to come to a quit smoking group. He decided that he was going to do whatever was in his power so that he could have one more day! (( click here to hear Richard’s Story )) Ask a dying grandmother, standing in the gap raising her grandkids, preparing them for life without her, praying that she has taught them enough to survive without parents… Ask HER about the value of one more day.Ask the parents in the NICU holding their tiny premature baby in their arms, listening to the news they’ve been fearing… Ask THEM about the value of one more day.I don’t mean to be grim. I hope you don’t misunderstand. But I think that I can way too easily forget the value of one more day. I don’t know what today will hold, what trial or triumph waits for me, but I’ve decided that I don’t want to miss it – whatever it is. So let’s muster up some faith, find some hope, borrow some confidence from those who have traveled this path already.Let’s make today count! P.S. I am ALWAYS glad to hear from you. I want to know about your trials and your triumphs.Your tales from your journey help me as I try to help others on their journey. Stay in touch. -Thank you!
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  31. This is unbelievably sweet. Ben sounds like a genuinely good kid.
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