Yesterday I met B, a bright seven-year-old with French-plaited hair and flowers painted on her fingernails. She has been doing some writing with the help of a wonderful young woman called Imogen; I read her A Girl Who Fell Into A Book; Imogen read me the latest installment of B’s Magic Faraway Tree-inspired story series. A few years ago, B had a car accident, and she can’t move independently, nor speak – not in the conventional sense, anyway. She makes her feelings clear with extraordinary facial expressions and mouthed words, and there is no mistaking her pleasure or otherwise. Seeing B, and all the other children where she lives, with disability of varying but generally profound severity, forcibly reminded me of how utterly vulnerable we humans are, but how irreducible the spirit. And made me reflect on all the parents and carers of these kids, the love and compassion that is so abundant (and yes, I know there is heartbreak too, and grief). I was reminded of a radio show I heard about the mentally ill in India, and how so many of them are taken care of by people who take notice, and provide them with food and clothing in a matter-of-fact way. Ordinary angels.
Also, B reminded me of the power of story. In real life, B can’t run, or climb a tree, or swim under the water, but in her stories she can. And does. And relishes every moment – you can see it in her eyes.