Whenever I see the photo of the New York City skyline with the two lights stretching upwards to represent the twin towers I am filled with a mix of emotions. It ignites pride in me to see that after thirteen years this city and this country still see the significance of 9/11 and illuminate the skies as a tribute to those who were lost and their loving family members who have felt this void in their own skylines since that tragic day. That photo also makes me question, “Without those two lights, would we still know what’s there?” Undoubtedly the answer is yes.
Of course one reason is that many of us have the NYC skyline engrained in our memories with those two twin towers standing tall against the horizon. So since we are so used to that image, our brains automatically build them back in that space where there is now a void.
But furthermore I think that even if we didn’t have these imprinted memories of what used to be, and even if NYC decided against shining those two bright lights into the sky, we would still know what’s there.
As human beings we have often difficulty believing in things that we cannot see with our eyes. To us, this is often what makes things real. But what about things like love and compassion? Can you see those things? No. You can’t pick up a piece of compassion off the floor and hand it over to a friend. You can’t grab a slice of love. But does this mean those two things don’t exist in our world? I know this is not true.
A classmate and I recently went on a trip to Japan and worked in a few children’s hospitals. While there we had the opportunity to observe the true power of compassion. And on this significant day I want to share a story from Japan with you to show you that just because you can’t see something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
We were brought to the floor where the most severely handicapped children lived and visited the room of a little girl who was two years old and had been hospitalized her entire life. She had very limited mobility, the most of which was being able to move her right eye from side to side and one of her thumbs. Sadly in the past people may have written her off as not needing interventions from people like hospital play specialists because of the possibility of not being able to see if their work was doing anything significant to help the child (ie. “You’re wasting your time in there. How is reading a book to her going to help anyway? It’s not like she can understand you. We’ve never even seen her smile.”) We know this not to be true and that human touch and connection is necessary for the well-being of all children, regardless of their ability to communicate or show emotion. But of course, it’s still nice to know that what you’re doing helps.
The HPSs (hospital play specialists) told us that we may not be able to go in and see her because they had been informed by the medical staff that she wasn’t doing very well that day and her heart rate was very high. We ended up being able to enter and observed the HPS in wonder as just the mere sound of her voice made the girl’s heart rate drop immediately. As time went on and we stood in that room, watching the specialist as she read a book about fireworks to her and seeing the kindness in her eyes as she sang her songs, we saw the girl’s heart rate drop from 170 bpm to below 100 bpm in less than ten minutes. I got shivers.
The words in the book were not what helped lower her heart rate, it was Izumi’s presence that did this. She poured her true self into this little one’s heart and that compassion helped her heal. We did not physically see the compassion travelling through the room, but we felt it, and we knew without a doubt that it was there. To be able to witness the power of compassion was an experience that I will never forget. It left us with tears in our eyes knowing that our work has meaning, it has worth, and most importantly, it transforms the suffering of children.
Just because we couldn’t see that girl smile, doesn’t mean her smile wasn’t there.
So I will leave you with this: If tomorrow NYC went through a power outage and those 88 bulbs were unable to shine in place of the twin towers, would their light still ignite the sky?
9/11. Never Forget: To Leave a Light On.