I have learned more from non-profit volunteering and my tenure on the board of the American Childhood Cancer Organization than I ever learned at any school. Especially concerning the meaning of life and, especially, the meaning of love.
A recent visit to a children’s hospital in Washington, DC was no exception.
It happened quite unexpectedly.
I felt love seeping out from beneath the door before I even saw them. The nurse tapped gently on the door and we both peered in.
I saw a tangled mass of surgical tubes and IV bags haphazardly wrapped around two IV poles which appeared to be embracing each other.
My gazed followed the entangled tubes and rested on two, bald, pajama-clad teenage kids wrapped arm in arm, asleep on the bed.
I smiled to myself. Teen romance. Can anything be more blissful and hopeful and comforting and wonderful?
We left them sleeping and the nurse told me their story.
They fell in love in the hospital a year ago and are currently fighting childhood cancer together, arm in arm, heart to heart, totally enraptured and unconditionally in love.
On bad days, the nurse said, they just hold each other. Rocking gently together in their pain and discomfort.
On good days they consider each other medicine and the perfect reason to fight for survival.
On my way out, I tried once more to see if they were awake, but they were still sleeping soundly, locked in an all-encompassing embrace. They had the most peaceful, enchanted expressions on their faces.
I saw them breathing in synch, almost as one, and I imagined how each of them probably winced though the others needle-sticks and nausea. And I knew, in that moment, that I was witnessing, the meaning of love.
And love is good.
This past weekend I stood in a field where the Woodstock Music Festival took place in August, 1969. I was a young boy in South Africa at the time but I must have played the record a million times and watched the movie over and over again.
Standing where the stage would have been I looked up at the green sprawling slope in front of me where a half a million young people peacefully witnessed one of the greatest musical events of our time.
As I stood there, and gazed out across the lush grass-covered field, I noticed a little girl, with fairy wings attached to her dress, walk away from her family who were sitting in a group at the top of the slope. As she walked, her golden, curly, hair glowed in the late afternoon sun, framed by the blue sky and the deep, green grass. She suddenly lifted her arms to her sides and started to run down the slope, arms outstretched, eyes closed, with a blissful expression on her face.
It seemed like she was running in slow motion. White dandelion parachute-seeds swirled around her feet as she ran and lifted lazily into the air behind her. She appeared to be buoyed by the memories of what once took place in this field. Then, she leapt into the air, and for a spit second, in that perfect moment, I thought she might take off and fly.
I can’t be sure but, I could swear, riding on the gentle afternoon wind, I could hear the distant echo of Wooden Ships by Crosby, Stills and Nash harmoniously floating past me toward the little girl as I walked back up the slope… and into the present.