March is the National Social Work Month. Early in my life, I got to benefit from the presence of a devoted Social Worker. Social work can take many forms and if it is well done, it can leave a positive and everlasting mark on someone's life!
What follows is excerpt from my book, Citizen of Happy Town. An excerpt that recounts the very first time I met Danielle soon after my arrival at the orphanage.
"... A couple of weeks after settling in, one of the Educators takes me to a small room to introduce me to a woman named Danielle. She shakes my hand and asks me if I would like to join her for a walk in the backyard, an offer I promptly accept since I spend most of my time there anyway and I also know we’ll find Alain playing marbles with the other kids, a game I can only enjoy as an observer since I still don’t have my own marbles.
Danielle, to the best of my recollection, is the first human being to ever hold my hand, which I instinctively put into hers as we walk outside and we make our way to one of the wooden tables in the backyard, away from the noise my friends are making. We walk in silence, but I can feel Danielle looking at me. I can sense she is curious about who I am. When we reach the table, I sit down and I ask immediately if she too is going to take me to a new home.
“No,” Danielle answers with a smile.
“Not today, anyway. But my goal is not to find you a home; it’s to find you a family. That’s what I do for a living; I find families for children who don’t have one.”
A few words from her is all I need to hear the kindness in her voice, to notice the determination in her tone. Just a few words, yes, but well-chosen ones and Danielle has just told me that she is real, that she is sincere and by the same token, she reassures me a little about whatever it is that awaits me in the near future.
We remain at the table where she asks me more questions and lets me talk her ear off about what my life has been so far and how much I like being here in Happy Town.
Speaking with Danielle makes me feel good. It’s easy and the sound of her voice alone adds to that feeling of peace I found when I moved here.
Before Danielle says goodbye, she surprises me by opening her purse to reveal a gift she brought just for me, the very first one of my life, I think. When I see what it is, I can barely breathe; it’s a blue pouch, filled with brand new and shiny marbles. I use both hands to grab it carefully, as if she were handing me a velvet bag filled with diamonds. Danielle was the first person to ever hold my hand less than an hour ago, and now, she is the first person to whom I say “thank you” spontaneously. The Educators have been trying to teach me these two words ever since I got here but now, they just plain exploded out of my throat like a reflex.
I can now play marbles with the other kids, my ticket of admission to the most popular activity in the orphanage’s backyard and to truly be a part of the group.
Danielle tells me to go play with my friends and that we will see each other again soon with, what she hopes, will be good news.
I run towards Alain and the others as I scream “I got marbles too. I got marbles too ...”
This second excerpt is taken from the last chapter which is titled Reflection:
"... Since I can no longer see her face, when I think of the afternoon I first met Danielle, I can only see our shadows walking as we hold hands or sitting down as we talk. I admit it; the scene is incomplete at best. But what it evokes in me is crystal clear: in that moment, I sense an unspoken promise from Danielle that she would do everything she could to find me a family.
Through the many challenges of my reality and her grave illness, she kept her promise and gave me a chance at a better life while she was in the process of losing her own.
She lives still, wrapped in the memories of my many returns to an orphanage called Happy Town and I know for sure she smiles with pride whenever I recognize the kindness of others, something I can do thanks to the exemplary kindness she showed me at a time of my life so marked by confusion.
Danielle also lives in the feelings I still have every once in a while, when I think of some of the things I wish I could erase or maybe just change.
When I’m hit by the regrets spawned by either the sadness I may have caused the P family when I turned my back on them, by my inadequacy to please the B family or by my impressive failure with Gerard and Grace, it is Danielle who comes to remind me that I was just a child and that every single human being’s destiny must follow its course, fueled by its own logic and its own purpose.
Most of my regrets fade when I remember that it was Danielle who brought some peace to my heart that afternoon I said goodbye to a family and then drove me to the one with which I would spend the rest of my life.
There is nonetheless a regret I will carry in me forever : I wish I could see her again. Even if only for a short moment. The one moment where I hold her tight in my arms as I know I can.
This moment by which I repay her, penny for penny, everything good she has done for me by telling her the words - the only words - I know she would long to hear:
“I’m fine” ..."
You may purchase Citizen of Happy Town as an eBook or in print by clicking here