Melissa was running behind on her rounds, but could not force her legs to move. The boy who held her attention looked to be about 7 years old. She half hid herself behind the wall at the entrance of the waiting room to help conceal her bright pink scrubs as she watched him. Through her years at the children’s hospital she had seen hundreds of kids in this room, but none like this. Some were afraid and held on tightly to their parents. Others were easily distracted by the bright colored walls and toys and began playing as soon as they could escape the grip of their parent’s hand.
The small boy sat on the floor next to the Lego table quietly watching the people around him with deep blue eyes. His shaggy brown hair shifted slightly every time he turned look at something new. His eyes moved slowly around the room, taking in everything, until they came to rest on her. He met her gaze and she waited for him to look away shyly like children do, but he never did. She smiled and he quickly returned expression as if he had been waiting for an opportunity to do so.
Melissa had caught pieces of the muffled conversation that the doctor was having with his parents and knew that they would be talking for some time. Her schedule fought for her attention but curiosity won the internal tug-of-war. He watched her calmly as she approached and knelt in front of him.
“My name is Melissa. But everyone calls me Mel. What’s your name?”
His calm drew her to him. It was the kind of freedom from worry that could only be found in a child’s world.
“Don’t you want to play with the toys?”
David shook his head.
“I don’t like this place.”
“Oh? Why is that?”
Mel couldn’t help but laugh. David smiled again, enjoying the moment. The laughter stole away quickly and David looked back to where his parents were.
“Are you scared David?”
Once again he shook his head, but somehow knew that was not what she was really asking.
“My sister is sick.”
A flood of relief washed over her. She was ashamed of that feeling, knowing that another child was still very sick, but in the few moments she had spent with him he had touched her heart and the thought of the world without him was difficult for her to think of. The world needed his peaceful joy and she would have given anything to protect that precious gift.
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“My mom says I am the only one who can help her.”
“Oh? How are you going to help her?”
“She needs something that is in my blood.”
“Well I think you are very brave for helping her.”
David looked down for the first time. Fear flashed across his face and his lower lip began to quiver.
The tranquil blue of his eyes seemed disturbed when he looked back up. His silent stare sent her mind racing for ways to show him that the needle would only hurt for a second.
“Would you go with me Mel?”
She reached over and took his tiny hands in hers.
“Yes. I will. I have to go take care of some things real quick, but I will talk to Dr. Griffin and I promise to be there before they start ok?”
He nodded again, but his eyes still held a sadness that she knew she could not fix with a sucker.
David lay perfectly still on the bed as the machine began to pump his blood into the small collection bag. His eyes were closed, but his grip on Melissa’s hand was strong.
“Hey buddy. You doing ok?”
“Is it gonna hurt?”
His question caught her off guard. The doctor had already inserted the needle. She could not think of what else he might still be afraid of.
“Will what hurt?”
“When I die.”
In an instant she realized what had been going through his mind. Tears cut warm paths down her cheeks. He did not understand. He had not offered to give some of his blood to save his little sister, but all of it.
Author’s Note: It was brought to my attention that my story “The Gift” is remarkably similar to a story published in Chicken Soup for the Soul that was borrowed from a book entitled Sacred Journal of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman. After some research I found that this was true and that versions of this story have been around for many years. I was unaware of this at the time of writing and contacted Mr. Millman seeking permission to publish my story. Mr. Millman responded by acknowledging the deep oral and written tradition of the story and encouraged me to publish mine as part of that tradition. You can follow this link to learn more about the history of the story from this post.