Outside the mounds of snow embrace the top of the fence. The afternoon sun pours through the living room's south window and focuses on the two engrossed figures.
Frequently the Faith, Hope & Charity care staff peeks in to make sure everything is okay. Gentle words and occasional giggles meander aimlessly through the room. It's story time.
"Tap... Tap... Tap. Swoosh went the wind..." The book being read is about a frightened child seeking comfort and reassurance in the midst of the nighttime darkness.
Fourteen-year-old Kala smiles. Her body goes rigid in her wheelchair as her delighted spirit responds to the words being read by her friend Kathy, her wheelchair carefully positioned next to Kala's.
These unique friends both know about darkness. They also know about courage. They know how to smile and love in spite of mental and physical challenges beyond our comprehension. Their story is real life stuff.
Kathy Nichols has been volunteering to read to Kala for over a year-and-a-half now. "I just love kids - always have," she quickly responds when asked about her involvement at Faith, Hope & Charity. Volunteer coordinator Jodi Cook adds, "Kathy is so dedicated... We can always count on her."
There is a routine to each visit. Kathy arrives at Faith, Hope & Charity at 3:30 p.m. each Tuesday after her day's work at Genesis Development. A FHC staff member assists as she and her wheelchair unload from the RTA van.
Once inside the facility, she greets everyone and chats non-stop on her way to Hope Home where Kala has been readied for her friend's visit.
Then the sharing begins. Their eyes make contact. Kathy reaches for Kala's hand. Kala's big smile seems to extend from her soul. She recognizes her friend. She remembers her voice. When Kala becomes distracted, the woman's soft tones and tender gestures refocus her attention. Occasionally, Kathy tries to hold the book higher so Kala can see the pictures. It's a difficult task when shaky arms and gnarled fingers won't cooperate. Turning each page takes time. The child is patient and offers an encouraging smile to her special friend. Kathy asks, "Did you like that?" and watches for Kala's facial response. It says more than the words she is unable to produce.
Forty-five minutes and two books later, on schedule, Kathy's husband John arrives to take her home. He always waits for her in the foyer. "Yes, I know she is a special lady," he says, admiring his wife of many years. Kathy smiles as she struggles with her blue quilted jacket. Life is good.
There is a joy in giving. They both know that. And Kala knows that too.
It's a proven way through the darkness.
Editor's note: If you are looking for a way you can make a difference in the life of a child, contact Jodi Cook, volunteer coordinator for Faith, Hope & Charity, at 732-5127.