On the medical mission I attended this past summer, a mother exclaimed that her son had become closed off after the recent passing of his father. She asked if there was anything we could do to help, so I sat with her son and tried to get him to open up. It turned out, his older siblings did not talk about the loss of their father, and he didn’t want to upset his mother with his sadness, seeing as she was still grieving as well. All it took was someone to help this young boy realize that it is okay to grieve the loss of his father. Helping him understand the importance of speaking up about his sadness was also essential in letting him feel as though he was allowed to talk about the pain he was experiencing. Even though I was only able to provide a lending ear, that was all this child needed at the current moment in time—someone to listen to him.
Over the summer, I attended a medical mission trip to Guatemala where our team of doctors and volunteers treated well over a thousand individuals in only a few short days. I worked in a triage station, and had the primary task of asking the people needing medical attention what was wrong, taking their blood sugar levels, blood pressure, weight, and temperature. From there, myself and the other triage team members would write down which doctor the person needed to see, and someone from the logistics team would walk him or her over to the required doctor.
A mother and her young son sat down at my table, and the mother explained that her son was very quiet and did not like talking to many people beside for her. She mentioned that the boy’s teacher believed him to have Autism Spectrum Disorder and recommended that he stop by the medical mission to inquire testing. I spent some time with the child and tried to engage in conversation with him. Although he was shy and seemed afraid to talk at first, little by little, he began opening up.
While I still recommended he receive testing by a trained psychologist as his teacher had recommended, it turns out, the child was being bullied at school. For this reason, he had become increasingly quiet and preferred not to engage in conversations with individuals other than his mother. Because he was being bullied at school, he was carrying around a significant fear on his shoulders, and no one seemed to know about his bullying.
Bullying occurs across the globe, and for us to ignore such terrible actions committed against others is an injustice to those afraid to speak up and ask for help. No one should have to endure bullying, and we should be doing everything we can to make sure that no child, young adult, or even adult faces mistreatment by others. It is up to us to make a difference.
For a child who was believed to have had Autism and who was believed to avoid individuals and not smile at all costs, I would say that after explaining his story and having someone to talk to, his smile was pretty big if you ask me.