By Jonathan David

I'll always remember his smile!

As I, a volunteer with Future Horizons, walked out of the Children's Hospital on Ratchadomnoen Road, located in the heart of Bangkok, I could still picture his cute little face in my mind's eye.

The day was already one to remember. It was the 12th of January, which is Children's Day in Thailand. The day began with a performance by a group of us volunteers for the hundreds of children gathered in the main hall of the hospital. As the singers performed local "Looktoong" songs to try to encourage the patients, the hospital became alive as children and parents enthusiastically joined in on stage with a melee of joyful dancing and singing.

P23_Dawo.jpgFrom there we moved on to the ward in which the children with heart problems and leukemia were cared for. Children diagnosed with a serious illness always make me tear up, but I resolved to put on my bravest smile. As we walked in with our bags of presents to give the children, these dear sick kids melted the hearts of all those around them.

Going from bed to bed we passed out the gifts and took time to talk and befriend each child.

I saw him at this time. He was on the corner of row two. In the leukemia section, his frail thin body revealed all that he had gone through. I stroked his shaved head as his mother explained the details of his illness to me. His pain was evident.

I quietly asked him his name. "Dawo," he said, so quietly that I had to ask his mother to repeat it. Dawo was five years old.

I began to show him the gifts we had for him, and his frown grew ever cuter as I noticed the struggle he was having in keeping it in place. He was shy and this was his protection. I knew he could not hold out much longer and his smile finally broke through when I produced a stuffed furry puppy from the gift bag. What started out as a giggle grew into outright laughter as "Daeng," his new toy, produced a series of growls and nips!

As I played with little Dawo, many thoughts passed through my mind. I thought I had come here to give but I was uncertain now who was giving and who was receiving. I looked into his brown eyes, now ablaze with excitement as to Daeng's next antic, and I thought of the beauty that flowed from this tiny child. His short, tough life had been one that would be hard for anyone to bear, but in his own little way he had managed to walk on courageously.

The tears came close to flowing when I again realized this little one might not have long left here. The gift of love that he gave me through his smile and continued laughter showed me that we must each play our part. I realized that as long as I have a life to give I must keep giving, because even in his pain Dawo gave me something special. He gave me a memory and a moment that I will not forget.

But, you see, that's the beauty of giving. Maybe both of us were just receiving.

Jonathan David is a former FCF Project Manager in Thailand, who continues on in Asia in another non-profit capacity.