I try to get to Hillsides between 7:30 AM and 8:00 AM each day, not because I am an early riser but mostly because the traffic is usually more manageable then and I can find a parking space on campus at that hour! On this particular day I was arriving on campus after a morning meeting so the parking spaces were non-existent. However, I did manage to find one spot at the far end of the upper campus. The great thing about parking on that end of campus is that it provides a great walk to my office and an opportunity to meet and interact with staff and residents.
As I approached the playing field from where I had parked, I ran into a group of residents accompanied by a couple of staff members. One resident, who I had noticed over the last few days had been especially agitated, was on the swing set trying his best to soar as high as he could. As I examined this gravity defying exercise, the door of the gym opened and a young resident emerged excitingly carrying a couple of hockey sticks and a ball. He immediately called out to the boy on the swing asking him to join him to play hockey. You could tell from the excitement in his voice that as happy as he was for a pick up game of hockey he was especially happy to see his buddy on the swing.
I can assure you that staff had attempted to engage the boy on the swing, but it was the enthusiastic invitation from his friend that freed him from compulsively trying to reach new heights. When he heard the call to join him on the field, he leaped off the swing ran on to the field, greeted his friend and immediately started strategizing with him on how to organize the game. As I walked by, I was moved by the smiles on their faces and the wonderful rapport they clearly enjoyed.
Things are always very busy at Hillsides. For me and the staff, days more often than not are long and sometimes challenging. However when you see children freed from their worries and hurts enough to enjoy a moment of friendship and play, you can not help but be convinced that it is worth the great effort we make.
Great things are accomplished in simple and sometimes surprising ways. Our residents benefit as much from the relationships and friendships they have with another as they do from the great care they receive from staff.
I will admit that it can be daunting to address the funding and organizational challenges that are part and parcel of an institution like Hillsides. However, the smiles on the faces of these two boys gave me all the motivation I needed to make the necessary effort to see to it that they and all those we serve get the best possible care we can offer. GOAL!