In my honesty, I must admit we had some expectations when we moved to Malta, like any other parent that wants a better place for their child would.We expected to meet a warm and caring system, a system that doesn’t judge and doesn’t point fingers, a system that creates opportunities for every single person, regardless of their needs or personal abilities.
We knew this and we knew the system when we decided to come back here.
For me personally there was another expectation…the hope that my heart and soul, emptied by endless worries and endless questions would one day fill up with peace and light.
In a world that grows in need under our very own eyes, in a world that forgot the essential human values, a world in which we put so much pressure on ourselves and on our children whom we want to become more than we have ever been, a world in which we have ended up feeling like we are not enough and we blame ourselves for being incomplete, we found something beyond our expectations.
We found a school where time seemed to have stood still. A place as welcoming as a family, in which the main preoccupation is meeting the personal need, like an oasis where you feel that you can grow under the warming sun. A school that did not forget that every child is an individual with unique needs, with a unique gift, complete and perfect, with a purpose in the world. There are no “special needs” but individual needs that are carefully and lovingly observed, so that every child can feel truly included and protected.
…One of those days that you can’t forget because everything starts on the left foot first thing in the morning, an extremely agitated and rainy morning with lots of people, lots of noise and traffic, I could sense my son becoming slightly anxious. And because he was still sensitive to really loud noises, because everyone was late due to the heavy rain and traffic and because we ended up at the school precisely when the bell started ringing forcefully as we were saying our good byes , something determined a strong and unexplained fear to suddenly show up in his little body that made him scream out loud and clasp his tiny hands in my arms.We all realized that he was scared so I caressed him, kissed him, hugged him a bit more before we parted. He left with his supporting assistant by his side, I left with my heart heavy. I could sense that morning that the sound of the bell will never be the same for us and I was afraid that maybe that small and warm school will never seem to offer safety.
At pick up time, his learning assistant seemed sad, he had been crying…”I am so sorry”…she said. “I did not manage to help him calm down. Not even when we played his favorite games or his favorite music. Every time he heard the bell he cried.”
We discussed that I would bring him in later the next day and I would pick him up earlier so that the bell would only ring twice.
And so we did. The next morning he seemed better, he was calm and rushed to see his colleagues who love him so much! So off we go feeling some sense of relief.
I ended up a bit earlier for pick up and I realized that all the children were quietly going out on break. He was waiting for me, holding Jessica’s hand.
“I forgot that at this time the younger children were going on break. Alex was already here, waiting for you as you discussed so we did not want to stress him out with explanations. We did not want to scare him, so we decided not to ring the bell. We told everyone to go on break in silence.”
I was completely speechless, his assistant smiling and my son relaxed, waiting for us to go home. It was a beautiful day and the sun was shining so bright that it reached deep into my heart. The air seemed fresher, even the colors seemed fuller and life was getting a new meaning…everything was new and different. I didn’t know how to integrate all these inside me. That was not something I was used to, it was not something commonly met. And it did not end up here…
The next few days were full of thunderstorms. The thunder and lightning seemed so alive and amplified the sound of the bell again. I find him at pick up crying, his assistant with tears in her eyes, helpless…he was holding her bracelet in his hands. She did not even know what else to give him to distract him, to push that fear away.
“We were about to call you…the thunder was so loud and the bell rang at the same time. The Head of School is in his office, he wants to speak to you.”
I pick my son up in my arms and I go to his office. I find a man on the floor, with some tools and different pieces of metal scattered around.The director was obviously affected: “ I am so sorry…today was a bad day. We were unable to help him. It seems that something happened and stirred this fear up, he can not cope with it. I called a handyman to see if we could maybe lower the bell volume…I already told them not to ring it more than 4 seconds but still, I don’t think this is enough. So we decided to change the bell.”
I was speechless, he was gasping: „Unfortunately in Malta we couldn’t find any other kind of school bell. We are going to call and ask from where we could bring one with a softer sound, something like a song or like a wind chime. I think this would help him a lot.”
I felt the need to sit down, I was overwhelmed and felt tears building up. Peaceful tears of joy, silent tears that only the soul of a mother who knows how many hardships her son endured can understand. I could not remember the last time someone made such a gesture, I could not recall the last time when someone, in a public institution took such a decision, in favor of a little man with a big but delicate heart.
„ I don’t know what to say”…I started. „I don’t think anyone did something like this for us. Are you changing the school bell because of one child?”
His answer was warm and unexpected: „What does it matter if it’s one child or more if it causes so much pain?”
And that was the moment that my mummy heart got full. Full of gratefulness and relief, full of a special kind of peace that I never felt before. It was full of hope and safety. Of the certainty that we were in the best place we could have ever been.
I can tell you for sure that the sun was brighter that day and the colors were fuller. There was a strong sense of life, compassion and unconditional love all around. Unconditioned by words, needs, borders or origins.
The school that refused to ring the bell showed me that the possibility of a new beginning still exists. A beginning in which each individual has the same value and is loved the same. And I knew, right then and there, that my heart will never be empty or the same ever again…