The social workers and the "Don't Jump Off the Bridge Team", as I like to call them (actually called PACT, but I can never remember that and the other name is so much more fitting), keep telling me not to take on "other" people's pain. I ask them, daily, how that is humanly possible.
First of all, it surrounds me. And secondly, I don't feel like they're "other" people. Their pain is mine and mine is theirs. We may have only just met, or as is often the case, have never even spoken words aloud to one another. But we know. We know in places that we're scared to talk about that each of us is fighting a battle here. We have learned to decipher between the newbies and the lifers. Parents new to our world often have red, tear-stained faces and questioning looks. They cry loudly and openly. For those of us who've been here more days than we can count, the look is more like stone. We've cried more tears than we'd ever imagined possible and lack the energy to produce more tears. We hear "good" news and fear reporting it because bad news always seems to follow. We've been places no parent should ever have to experience. We're drained, shredded, and turned inside out. But, it's those of us who get to be beaten another day that are the lucky ones.
I see children with bald heads and beautiful smiles. I see the ones who can barely open their eyes, but when they do, show you a fight like no other. I see babies running around units acting perfectly normal, and you know they're headed in for the surgery of their lives the very next day. My mom heard a 9-10 year old girl walking behind her mom saying, "But, Mom, I just don't get it. I need a heart right now, if I'm going to get better." She wasn't whining or complaining. Just asking her mother why they can't get her the organ she needs. The mother looks straight ahead with that steel will and continues walking, because what other choice do you have?
So much pain and sadness. So many tears and unanswered questions. So, I ask you to tell me how I'm supposed to forget about "other" people's pain? It isn't strength or some amazingly kind and generous nature. It's just the reality of this place. It's the need to connect with other human beings. And above all else, as always, it's the human heart's incredible capacity to love.