Ooh, look at that kid!

How do you feel when you see a child whose hair was stolen by chemotherapy? Do you unwittingly look away? Does it make you uncomfortable? Are you unsure what to say or how to react? When we see a child with a dread disease, we often find it hard to focus on the child, rather than the illness. We notice the oxygen prongs or the IV lines quicker than the twinkle in their eyes or their impish tenacity. Our brain insists that children should be healthy. Our stomachs churn at the thought of their pain.

Shaina doesn’t have this problem.

Chai Lifeline is a spectacular organisation that assists children who have Cancer. Once a year, the Israeli chapter brings a group of children receiving treatment for a break in sunny South Africa. They take the kids on safari, fly them to Cape Town and treat them like celebrities for a week. Local families throw daily parties for them. For the children, it’s a week-long respite from their relentless medical treatments. They travel with a medical team and continue chemo infusions as they live up the tourist life.

Shaina was invited to join their farewell party on the day they were leaving. This year’s group was boys only (they alternate boys and girls each year), but we knew that would be no issue for her. A family friend volunteered to take her to the event, and I planned to collect her early enough for her bedtime.

Rain triggers Shaina’s anxiety, so when a massive thunderstorm erupted as I arrived to pick her up Shaina, I expected to find her in a corner, clinging to her carer. I shoulda known better.

I walked into a room pulsating with music. A tight circle of counsellors danced with sickly children on their shoulders. Within that circle was an even tighter circle of four boys- and Shaina. One boy’s pale bald head glowed blue and red in the disco lights. Another trailed a long oxygen tube.


Once Shaina started dancing, she didn’t stop. She bopped with those boys long past her bedtime and only paused for breath when she spotted me in the room.

Shaina was so pumped from the dance party she barely noticed the belting rain as we bolted for our car. She collapsed in a heap as soon as we arrived home.

When I saw the evening’s host a few days later, she gushed about how Shaina had been the life of the party, who would not stop dancing for a second and had stayed front and centre throughout. “You know,” she continued, awestruck, as if describing a celebrity, “Shaina didn’t see the oxygen tube! She didn’t see the bald head! She saw children. She just saw beautiful children!”

Our sophisticated adult minds home in on the trappings- people’s clothing, their flaws and failures. Shaina isn’t distracted by superficial detail. A child without hair is a child who deserves to dance as much as any other. If we could pause our adult brains long enough to see people, rather than the stuff they bring with them, we’d also hold their hands and dance together.

Drawing the adults into the dancing with the Chai Lifeline kids

Published by rabbiarishishler

Husband, father and rabbi of Chabad of Strathavon in Johannesburg, South Africa.

5 thoughts on “Ooh, look at that kid!

  1. Time and time again…Shaina teaches us yet another lesson. She is a beacon of light and if you look at her face in today’s picture….she shines with Life, Light and pure Delight. Good Shabbes to Rabbi, Naomi and all the family.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Precious Angel Shaina’s smile is enough to uplift me, the joy on her face says it’s going to be an awesome blessed day 💖.


  3. What an angel of a child you have in Shaina. We often wonder what we are supposed to learn from certain things in our lives. Shaina is teaching every one of us so many lessons all the time. I can’t tell you how often in my daily life I remember one of your posts about Shaina and then I react differently.
    Thank you for sharing these lessons with us. May she be blessed with happy days and that infectious joy always 🙏🙏


    1. Precious Angel Shaina, to wake up and see your beautiful smile with such joy and happiness makes my day , sending love and blessings over you today and always.

      Liked by 1 person

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