The searing heat radiated off the concrete sidewalk, and the air was dry seemingly scorched. The cushion of air from the passing traffic blasted like opening an oven door. On humid days like this any movement encouraged perspiration, it didn’t need to be physically exerting. The path wove through a center park, kids were dancing in the water fountain exhilarated from the pulsing spray showering them.
Mason smiled remembering those days, secretly wishing he was a kid again, he’d be right there splashing with them. Normally he’d be jogging, keeping an elevated heart rate. Today Mason opted to walk, and his shirt was still soaked. Continuing his walk, Mason neared the fountain, as the path passed within feet of the refreshing sprays. Mason turned to head away from the children laughing and jumping. As he changed direction, Mason noticed a small child, face sullen pouting; while she sat in the hot sun, watching the other children play.
The girl was probably about 7 Mason guessed, she was all alone, no one near by. This seemed odd to Mason, as the girl was confined to a wheel chair. Curious and a bit concerned, Mason walked over to the little girl, bending down to her level he smiled. The frail girl with bright blue eyes smiled back at him. “Hi, I’m Mason, what’s your name?”
“ Trisha,” she answered in a quiet almost timid voice.
“You want me to move you out of the sun, it’s pretty hot today?” Mason offered to wheel her into the shade of one of the many trees nearby.
“ No….what I want is to splash in the fountain, like the other kids,” Trisha sighed a frown forming on her pretty face.
“Um….where’s your mom, is she nearby?” Mason inquired still scanning the faces of people close, no one appeared to notice him, or Trisha for that matter. “My Mom’s in Heaven,” Trisha whispered looking upward at the deep blue sky.
Mason was beside himself, what a tragic story, he wasn’t sure how to continue. Trisha helped him out, “Can you lift me up and take me over to the fountain? I know you’ll get wet but….well I can wheel my chair close, but I still can’t feel the water.”
“Trisha…..who watches over you, where is your guardian?” Mason asked wondering how much interaction he should allow. For all intensive purposes, he was a stranger. Mason didn’t want her guardian getting the wrong idea, if and when they came back.
“I came on my own….I stay at the Children’s Center, it’s not far only a couple blocks. I come when I can to watch the kids play.” Trisha explained smiling again. “They let you come by yourself?” Mason was astounded, shaking his head rolling his eyes. Trisha laughed at his question shaking her head. “No silly….I sneak out. At lunch time there are only two nurses, and they are usually busy so it’s really easy. Please Mason, can you help me get wet, I’m so hot, and it looks like so much fun?”
Perhaps it was those brilliant blue eyes, or maybe the bleakness of her situation, but Mason did lift Trisha from her chair carrying her to the fountain. Kicking off his sneakers, he stepped into the fountain with all the other kids. Trisha giggled and held up her arms tilting back her face allowing the sprays to trickle over her delighted. The happiness beaming in her tiny face was reward enough for Mason. What a beautiful little girl, she should know this happiness everyday.
When they were both totally soaked, but refreshed and cool, Mason put Trisha back into her chair. Sliding on his sneakers Mason wheeled Trisha back to the center. Mason was met by a stern nurse, whom wasn’t happy to realize Trisha had stole away alone.
“Where have you been? Trisha, you know you are not permitted off the center grounds. Who are you, and why are your both soaked?” The duty nurse, back from her lunch ripped off questions faster than Mason or Trisha could answer them.
“I’m sorry….I let Trisha get into the fountain like the other kids, she was so sad watching them. I walked her back, making sure nothing happened to her, so don’t be too angry please,” Mason took the heat winking at Trisha who winked and grinned.
“What am I gonna do with you little lady?” The nurse sighed and wheeled Trisha back inside to change her clothes. Mason followed he’d been by this place hundreds of times, but never ventured inside. What he saw when he entered nearly broke his heart. Kids, everywhere all ages, some in wheelchairs…others on crutches, some so sick they were confined to bed.
The nurse brought Trisha back to him moments later, “ Trisha has something to say to you.”
“Okay….what’s up Trisha?” Mason asked softly crouching again so he could look at her face to face.
“Thank you….it was really nice you took time for me today, I won’t forget it. Nurse Carol promised she’d take me to the park from now on, that way I can stay longer, if I promise not to sneak off anymore,” Trisha replied nodding with a huge smile.
“That sounds like a good idea ... Um ... I have one too, want to hear it?” Mason asked, peeking both Nurse Carol and Trisha’s curiosity.
“Yes… what tell me please,” Trisha seemed suddenly excited.
“Well I jog in the park everyday… could I come get you, and take you to the park, would that be okay?” Mason asked Trisha and Nurse Carol, whom smiled and nodded.
“Oh boy would it …. Wow, I can go to the park everyday….thank you Mason … I love you,” Trisha leaned forward hugging Mason who reached around Trisha holding her tight. Mason was a bit overwhelmed, wiping a tear that threatened to spill.
“Okay then, be ready tomorrow I’ll be here,” Mason replied. Trisha nodded her head emphatically, then waved, and headed into the play room with her fellow shut ins.
Nurse Carol went over rules for taking Trisha out, “You know, it’s a really nice thing for you to spend time with her. Trisha is waiting for a foster home, her parents died two years ago. No family comes by, and we are so understaffed here. I am curious though can I ask why, I mean … what prompted you to do this?”
“I just could not look into those innocent blue eyes and tell her no, every child should know happiness, not just the healthy ones,” Mason responded.
Nurse Carol hugged him, “I wish more people thought like you do, see you tomorrow Mason.”
Mason nodded and waved good-by again to Trisha, “See you tomorrow.”