Arts and crafts in the hospital can provide simple joy to everyone. Sometimes a colored sheet of paper and a few well-placed folds go a long way.
Palms sweat as I grip the janitorial cart filled with art supplies and attempt to rustle it through the third floor waiting room door. It’s a clunky cart and makes a lot of noise, so no surprise all eyes are on me as I enter the room. I introduce myself and motion to the cart in front of me and ask if anyone is interested in doing some arts and crafts while they sit and wait. We tend to be more popular with children when it comes to the hands-on crafts, but as the waiting room is filled with only adults, I make sure to mention that we have sudoku, crossword, and word search books. I also let them know they’re welcome to take any of the pre-made crafts on the cart.
I look around and see a couple of smiling shaking heads and hear some, No thank yous.” I’m about to make my way to the next waiting room when I hear, “How much are the flowers?” I turn around and realize that one of the ladies is referring to the tissue paper flowers on display. The flowers tend to be the main attraction, so we always make an abundance of them in a variety of different sizes, colors, and shapes. “Oh, these are free, you’re welcome to take any of them!” She happily picks a couple of flowers, expressing how beautiful the baby pink one is and shares how she’s planning to decorate her daughter’s hospital room with them. I say goodbye and thank you with a smile. How elated I felt for that mom to find joy in something so simple as a piece of crafted tissue paper and imagined her daughter would be touched by the gift from her mother.
What some might have seen that day was a rickety cart with a bunch of crafts, but what that mother saw was a pretty flower whom she could brighten up her daughter’s day with, just as my intention was to brighten up her day in the waiting room.
As I prepare myself to go into the different waiting rooms, I know that each time is an opportunity to give someone an ordinary sheet of paper or pipe cleaner and share a moment of humanity.
Making art is a creative medium for channeling our emotions and giving our minds a break from worry. A little distraction, a kind intention, can make someone’s day. There are many ways to create a welcoming waiting room environment that can improve people’s experiences, and sometimes a colored sheet of paper and a couple of creases can go a long way.
This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.