These nights are filled with unforgettable characters. The little skater punk who runs around with so much enthusiasm, donned in the cutest outfits and brandishing the most welcoming smile. And the bowl-cut blondie who is terrified of any loud noises and is especially talented at not looking where he's running. His comical straight legged run around the circle during duck-duck-goose usually results in a tangential escapade across the gym. Lion boy seems to keep to himself. Then you catch a glimpse of his sparkling eyes and gleeful smile when he breaks into a gallop. The tiniest girl can take the punches (usually without any tears); a miniature shadow for the hour. Her joy is contagious: her smile could make any sad man forget his woes, send any girl into a fit of giggles. In deep brown eyes, I see that he understands more than we give him credit for, his timid and tentative actions refuse to reflect the sharpness of his mind and the confidence he has: 'Don't doubt me. Don't belittle our efforts'.
There are so many stories, families, pains. But still, there is so much joy.
Nothing is more beautiful than their courage; all the cards stacked against them but they revel in each tiny blessing. Every second of happiness is multiplied and showered on the people who have the privilege of entering their world, even for a moment.
And I think of my own black-haired Pocahontas, free-spirited and unbelievably strong. She would never want my sympathy or my tears.