"Will you draw a teddy bear for me?"
I tried to turn my six-year-old´s mind to something cheerful.
Tina had looked very serious ever since we left the hospital. She held her Elvis teddy bear tightly and was deep in her thoughts. The teddy bear did not look anything like Elvis, but Tina loved anything Elvis, so of course her teddy was named Elvis too. And if there was anything Tina loved to do it was to draw a teddy bear. But now she wouldn´t do even that.
"What is it, honey?" I asked.
We had been visiting her cousin Mike who had managed to break his leg in a skateboard accident. It was not his skateboard but a friend´s who had let him try it. He was so miserable in hospital, knowing his whole summer was ruined, that no one wanted to scold him.
Tina had never been to a hospital before and had wandered off before I noticed. When I did, I found her in a room full of much sicker children than Mike was. My little girl was always so big hearted, and when I found her she had given Elvis for a little boy to hold.
"You can hold him for a while," I heard her say when I walked into the room, "Where is your own teddy?"
"We cannot bring them here," a girl said, "They are not hygi… hygia…"
"Hygienic," a nurse walked into the room and to the little boy, "Here, young lady," she took Elvis and gave it back to Tina, "It was a beautiful thought but we cannot have dirty bears around very sick children."
Tina´s lips started trembling.
"Elvis is a clean teddy!" she whispered
The nurse realized she had hurt her feelings.
"I am sorry, sweetie. I did not mean your teddy looks dirty. Still there is invisible dirt in your teddy that can harm the sick children. We have to be extra careful so that no extra bacteria get in here. That is why you need to wash your hands and you cannot bring flowers. Nothing would make me happier than to give teddy bears to all the children here, but unfortunately that cannot be done."
We had left the hospital, after being assured by the nurses that Mike would get home soon enough, and Tina turned very silent.
I went to make some lunch. After a while I went to peek what Tina was doing and found her drawing by her table. A teddy bear. I smiled, and thought the little crisis was over.
After lunch it was time to go to a park. The mothers in our neighborhood had a habit of meeting with our pre-school children every Tuesday after midday in a nearby park. The children could play with each other and the mothers talk about anything and everything, trusting there would be enough eyes to look after the children.
Tina had a shoulder bag and it seemed she had brought some drawing with her. I didn´t think much of it and we walked the two blocks to the park. Children stated to play and us moms started socializing.
After a while I noticed all the children were standing in a group – and in the middle was Tina. She was holding one of her drawings and talking. I got up and walked closer.
"… to draw a teddy bear," Tina said.
"Draw a teddy bear? Just one?"
"As many as you can. And tell other kids too. Ask them all to draw a teddy bear."
"Where shall we bring them?"
"Here, next week."
At that the children went back to their playing. I knew something funny was going on but if the only thing the children did was to draw a teddy bear, or many, no problem. I went back to discuss with the other ladies.
Next Tuesday came in no time. Again we were in the park. The mothers looked slightly amused.
"What did your Tina ask the kids to do?" A neighbor of mine laughed, "Look!"
I turned to see Tinas hands full of drawings. And I mean full. She had asked the children to draw a teddy bear and they had done just that.
"My Tom did nothing else the whole week but draw teddy bears. And we are talking about a boy who wouldn´t draw anything unless it had four wheels or metal wings," another mom shook her head, "Would you tell us what is all this?"
-"To be honest I have no idea," I said, -"So why don´t we let Tina speak, ok? Tina!"
She was already approaching, carrying dozens of teddy bear drawings and smiling broadly.
"Ok, Mom! Now we can go!"
"Go, honey? Where? We just got here! And what´s with all these teddy bears? Can I see?"
I took a few drawings. On the first paper was a teddy bear picnic party and ”Get well soon!” written in red letters. On the second there was an Elvis teddy bear – with the hair and all, and the same message written on it. The third one was pretty well drawn – it was a Mr Bean teddy bear. The funny expression was well drawn and made me laugh. This one wished speedy recovery. There was a love teddy bear with little hearts. An antique-looking teddy bear with a bandage on its arm and ”Lets get well together”. A pink teddy was giving a teddy bear hug.
I thought I understood.
"Are these all for Mike? That´s sweet, honey!"
Tina looked at me and shook her head.
"No, Mommy! Mike is at home already. He has all the teddies he needs. These are for the children at the hospital! The ones that cannot have real teddies there. I asked all to draw a teddy bear so they could have teddy bear drawings. A teddy bear drawing is still a teddy bear! And all kids need a teddy bear!"
(click on the photo to see it up close)
I saw some of the moms wipe their eyes. I felt so proud of my little girl.
And so we drove to the hospital. I talked to the nurses and they let us leave the teddy bears for the children (I had been a bit afraid about how strict their rules of hygiene were).
"You give one teddy bear to all the sick kids here, ok? And if there are any left, keep them and give to the new kids when they arrive."
The nurse who had taken Elvis teddy bear from the little boy and called it dirty, smiled.
"I promise," she said, "And please tell your teddy I am sorry if I hurt his feelings last time."
"It´s all right," Tina nodded her head, "I explained to Elvis you meant well."
At that she turned and we went home.
The story should have ended there – but the next Tuesday came and there were more children than usually at the park. The word had spread and they were all carrying drawings of teddy bears. And there we were – with dozens of drawings of teddy bears again.
Tuesday after Tuesday this was repeated.
Tina became a local celebrity. She was interviewed in the newspaper as the ”Draw a Teddy Bear – girl”. People who read the story began drawing teddy bears and sending them to her. We took the teddies to hospitals and children´s homes. When the flood of drawings grew, an art exhibition was arranged at a local library – this time the drawings had price tags. We collected a considerable sum of money to buy equipment for the children´s hospital.
And so we continued – taking teddy bear drawings to hospitals and when there were extra ones, we sold them for charities.
The moral of the story? If you really want to help, even the smallest idea can make amazing things happen - even if it just mean you draw a teddy bear. Why don´t you try it? Draw a teddy bear and see how it can brighten up someone´s day. Seeing the joy it brings to someone else will brighten up your day as well!
Below are the books I've written so far.
An illustrated children's book about the life and death of Tutankhamun. This book was chosen for the "King Tut - Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh" tour that travels the world (10 cities) starting in March 2018 (Los Angeles > Paris > London > Sydney)