It's the Little Things
Life is so amazing. Earlier this week I was sitting outside watching the sunset with Baby (Christine) on my lap and the other kiddos surrounding me. My heart was full. Being surrounded by my kiddos is absolutely my happy place. A few days later I am home in Arkansas walking outside on an unseasonably warm February day trying to wrap my head around the fact that only a few days ago I was on a different continent on the other side of the planet.
People always want to know if it is really weird to come home after living in an African village—if the reverse culture shock is too much. Well, at first it was. It took me doing this twice a year for multiple years for my brain to get used to it. While I flow in between them pretty easily now it still takes my brain a few days to catch up. What I mean is, right now I know that I am physically in Arkansas but it still does not exactly feel like I am. It is as if my brain is still somewhere, maybe over the Atlantic, in transition between the two places. Whether I am arriving in Kenya or coming home to Arkansas it always takes a few days to feel grounded where I actually am.
Something else that comes out of each and every trip I take is a renewed sense of purpose. This time is no exception. It is one thing to know intellectually that we are providing a home for children who need one—that they are cared for and provided with each and everything they need to be healthy and happy, but it is something altogether different to viscerally experience how their hearts have opened when they give you a squeeze or when you see them completely at ease as they go through their day. It’s the kind of ease that you can only feel when you are truly at “home.”
Although it might seem a small thing to someone else, to me witnessing that is the most beautiful and affirming thing in the world. I remember the pain and chaos that these children have come from and know the physical and emotional state that they were in when they arrived. To now witness them being so calm because they feel safe and loved is nothing short of miraculous and no matter how many times I see it my heart continues to be completely overwhelmed.
I will give you an example of what I mean from this most recent trip. During the first week we were there it was just a regular school day for the kids. I had been at our Home playing with them that afternoon for a few hours and then dinnertime came around. Wilfrieda, one of our House Mothers (she has worked there since before we opened our doors), announced that it was time to wash up and sit down to eat. I was just standing there observing it all. Some kids headed to bathe. Some were putting away toys, others were preparing the table for dinner. Then I noticed Peter, one of our smaller kids (he just started 3rd grade). One of the other kids yelled for him to get something from the kitchen. Peter giggled, made a funny face, spun around, and then ran toward the kitchen.
And there it was, something so subtle, but so telling. He was totally at ease. He felt so free, just a kid being a kid, in his own home. Now anyone with children has seen this with their own kids. When they are home they’re generally goofier than when they’re other places. They feel free to be themselves, no matter how weird that might be. Seeing Peter do that and feel so free was an “aha” moment for me. He is home. Peter was very cautious and guarded when he moved in with us and remained so for a long time afterward. He would have fun and play, but was always still skeptically watching what was happening. He didn’t let his guard down at all so to see him so carefree without any hesitation or a second thought was pretty incredible.
It is the small moments like these that remind me what all of this is for—providing a place and space for kids to be loved, a place where kids can just be kids. Everyone deserves that and I am so thankful for the opportunity to help provide a true home for 19 amazing children who would not otherwise have one. Caring for those who cannot care for themselves is, by my lights, the most important thing to be done in this world and because of the hard work our staff does everyday along with the support from our generous donors we are doing just that.
Thank you all for your support and for being a part of our global family. We are excited about the year to come and have many more wonderful things to share with you! Stay tuned...