Little Henry

9 Sep

I went for a walk yesterday along a river in the Chaoyang District by Dawanglu. It is lined by overhanging trees that gently brush over your head as you walk underneath them. It is calm and peaceful there, almost as if the business of Beijing simply decided that here it would not enter and left the area alone. It is set down a bit lower than the road, where the loudness of car horns and pedestrians reside.
But along this river, there is a buffer zone, a cloud of quiet and almost as soon as you begin to walk along it, you begin to feel at ease with the world.

I teach a wide range of students at school. Some are four, while some are ten. I see quite a large amount of Chinese children come in and out of our doors each day, each with a smile and excitement to play and perchance learn along the way. Sometimes these children are unhappy, like any child, they have good days and bad days, sometimes they are naughty, sometimes so willing to please. But one child has stood out to me above all of them. His name is Henry.

When I first met Henry, he wouldn’t look me in the eyes. When I asked him to try a game, he would turn in his chair away from the board…ashamed almost. One day as we were learning about feelings, I held up a happy face and a sad face and asked Henry how he was feeling. He cast his eyes downward and said “Anger.” I asked him why, but he turned away. I came to think of reasons…neglect from parents, a hatred for learning?

Henry is five years old, he likes lions and wolves and the color blue. His eyes are big and his black hair is kept short. He wears white socks that have a special embroidery on them. His water-bottle is a light muted color yellow and for snacks he eats a small bag of chips or some cookies. He rarely smiles and rarely raises his hand and when I give him a high-five, he holds on to my fingers a little longer in a tight squeeze.

When I leave school, I think about Henry and how I can make him smile. This child compels me. He seems to have lost that five-year-old innocence. He seems to know more about life at his small age than he should. I want to know him and be his friend.

What are you thinking about little Henry?


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