He sat splay-legged on the wooden floor, amongst the pell-mell of scattered markers and paper scraps, lost in his own daydream world. He sat by himself, his back turned towards me, but seeing him there, my breath caught in my throat, and my mind snapped a picture to remember.

He was playing.

He danced his little dragon in the air, his shoulders rigid with the wonder and fascination at this creation he had made with his own two hands.

I had just shown the kids how to make little Chinese dragon puppets. At the beginning, I had to show this little 8-year-old how to color. He watched me filling in the spaces with a marker, himself too daunted to put his own pen to paper. I worried he would never finish his, he was so busy looking at mine, terrified of doing something wrong. There are no wrong answers, I wanted to say, but too often I’ve seen disbelief in their eyes. So instead, I gave him time and whispers of encouragement. When the other kids left, he began to color in earnest.

And then he finished. This child, for whom imagination was a forgotten story, for whom fear is a constant houseguest, and for whom pride and creation are foreign concepts, this child was playing with a beautiful dragon he had made.

With his own two hands.

My breath got caught in my throat.

He stole my voice for a moment, and I thought I might give mine if it meant he’d find his.

Did he see? It was there all the time, just waiting to be understood.

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