Being a Partner: How it makes me a better person

Mike and Kim do a happy dance for a chid in a hospital bed, hugging a unicorn doll, smiling, and pointing at them

The chance to engage creatively with kids who are in hospitals got my attention. I jumped at the chance.

When we are invited into a kid’s room, my goal is to connect and listen. We Partners are not authorities. We collaborate with the kids we visit. Collectively, we choose an activity that allows the kid to relax, play, be free, and imagine. And it works. Some kids resist; when they see us and we introduce ourselves, they’re not buying what we offer. Usually, they let us in the room anyway. Then,
depending on the kid’s choice, we’ll play an improv game, or improvise a story, and/or improvise a song. And when we’re leaving their room, maybe 15-20 minutes later, they’re themselves. They’re engaged, enthused, excited. Many times, they don’t want us to leave. Transformation. That’s the power of improvisation.

During this past year, we met two kids who are on my mind right now. A teen and a toddler, both suffering from cancer. They were in the same hospital at the same time. And during the course of their treatments, they became friends. We’d make a point of seeing each of them when they were in the hospital. For the toddler, we’d sing songs. For the teen, we’d play an improv game, or improvise a story about him. The game, or the story, or songs brought us joy. We connected. We created joyful play together. Not long ago, the teen passed away unexpectedly. We grieved. That’s the hard part of our job. The toddler recently celebrated the end of her treatment and is going home.

I’ve been lucky enough to be a Partners That Heal member for over 10 years. Working with kids and using improvisation inspires me. I’m becoming a better human being.