Nov 27

The Sandbox

Inspiration comes in many forms and often at times when you least expect it. This was the case for me when I was fifteen and living away from home for my first time. I had run away as I was, at the time, having issues with my family and needed the separation. It was a dark time in my life and I was not in the greatest place in my thoughts. I was not even fully cognitive of the causes of the darkness that shrouded my world. It would be many years until I would finally completely see the causes. This story is not about that, it is about a light that shone into my darkness and provided inspiration.

The year was undoubtedly a bad one for me with me running away and spending a few weeks on the street before finding a place to live. I was lucky because a friend’s mother took me in and provided room and board with the understanding that I had to go to school. I was agreeable to that as I had always loved learning though wasn’t always crazy about the other students. I was never understood by others which resulted in an unpopularity that often ended up in my isolation. I was used to it.

In addition to school I also had a part time job working in a daycare facility after school which became the source of my spending money. My job was easy, I went there right after school and then collected dishes which I ran through a dishwasher and then put away. Once I was done with that, I simply played with the children until their parents arrived to pick them up. Children actually liked me which was completely the opposite of what I was accustomed to.

I very quickly discovered a particular little four year old blonde girl named Shannon who did not speak or play with the other children. She spent most of her time alone sitting in the sandbox and something about her isolation resonated with me. It was a reflection of how I felt and I fully understood how she had to be feeling. I asked about her and learned that she just didn’t respond to any of the workers and they had essentially given up on her. I was not willing to give up on her and it became important to me to help her in some way.

My interactions with Shannon did not instantly get any results but the effort of trying made me feel better about myself on some level. It was the beginning of a flickering of light in the darkness that I craved more than I had even realized. At first she just sat in the sand box and I joined her talking to her, building sand castles and making up stories about the princesses who lived in the various castles that I built. I did this day after day and never gave up on her. She just watched me and that was enough because I knew she wasn’t alone.

The staff at the daycare told me that I wasting my time on her but despite that I continued and eventually after a few weeks, Shannon did something different; she smiled. She also began to interact in a very slight way. She would point to where she wanted me to make the next castle and this was encouraging to me. It grew into real play as she would help me with the castles and would smile. She was not talking but I could tell that she was having fun. This went on for a few more weeks until one day when she was missing from the sandbox.

The day when the sandbox was empty was completely not what I had expected and it turned out to be a good thing. I found Shannon running around with two other girls and she was talking. It was the first time ever that I had heard her little voice and it was music to my ears. She was interacting and it was almost like she was a completely different girl. It completely amazed the staff and they were at a loss to figure out how I managed to get through to her. I didn’t really care how I managed to do it but was happy for her, she had made the transition out of loneliness and it was comforting to know it could be done.

The story does not end there as one day when I arrived at work I was called into the office of the woman who ran the daycare. I was wondering what I had done but it turned out that Shannon’s mother wanted to meet me. Apparently Shannon spent a lot of time talking about me at home and had insisted that her mother get me a Christmas gift. I was shocked and it was one of the few times in my life where I was genuinely speechless. I opened the gift and it was a Christmas ornament that was made of an antique looking wooden child’s block with a string mounted on the top to affix it to a tree. It was beautiful and it was and still is the best Christmas present I ever received. It became a light for me and my encounter with Shannon became an inspiration for me and helped me begin a long journey out of the darkness.


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  1. Nikki

    Inspiration indeed! I really enjoyed reading this post and it reminded me to be persistent because the end result is worth the journey!

  2. camountain

    You summed up perfectly what I was trying to share. Thank you :-)

  3. Nancy M. Popovich

    This is a bitter sweet story that resonates. Kindness is one thing that we give and receive for free and obviously that little girl saw your heart and loved what she saw. Thanks for sharing.

  4. camountain

    I agree with with you 100% Nancy and I was in the rare position to see the results of what my kindness led to. A lot of time we never get to see the results and it becomes important to remember these rare times as it continues to inspire us to be kind and helpful whenever we have the chance.

  5. Ebru Ulufer

    Hi Candace,

    This a beautiful story ♥ It is so wonderful to read that you changed Shannon’s life and what you did for her changed your life too. Thanks for sharing.

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