Sometimes it is hard to see the bigger picture when you are focusing on day-to-day problems. This is especially difficult when you are caring for 16 children. Everyone has something going on. It could be fighting over toys or having a hard day at school. The children that are living at our home have often dealt with much more than any child should and so even small issues can trigger something bigger. Then there are also all the positive things that happen to the kids, like doing well on a test or becoming their class leader. Maybe it is just learning how to write their letters, understanding subtraction or reading an entire Berenstain Bears book without help. Big or small, good and bad, we strive to be there for our kids as much as we can--ensure that they know that we value each one of them. So when I am there I find myself just going and going, not having the time to process what is actually happening. However, on my last trip there was a moment, seemingly small, that brought everything into focus... One evening a staff member Mary became really sick and Patrick (our nurse) had to rush her to the hospital. After they left, our staff member Christine and I served the children dinner and she had to be back the next morning at 5:30am, so I sent her home. Then it was just our 16 kiddos and I.
It never ceases to amaze me just how well behaved our kids are! They all finished their dinner and went about their routine—they cleaned off the table, brushed their teeth and got ready for bed. Soon after they grabbed their book bags, sat around our solar lamps and began to study. I didn’t have to ask them to do any of it. I walked around helping everyone with his or her homework and then began to get our smallest guys ready for bed.
Amazingly enough our youngest boys Clinton (2) and Austin (3) were really easy. I just told them that I loved them, gave them each a stuffed toy and told them to go to sleep. Then they giggled (because how I sounded speaking Luo) and climbed in bed. I kissed them good night and sat for a moment rubbing their backs as they drifted off to sleep. Samuel our 5 year old was much more difficult, but after some snuggling, his sleepiness finally won the battle.
The older children just sat quietly studying. Then one by one they packed up their schoolbooks and headed off to bed. Ester and Juma (both in 8th grade) studied the longest, but about 10pm they said goodnight.
I sat in the middle of our living room floor tired and sweaty after a very long day. The house was dark and the only sound I could hear was our children breathing. They were all tucked in their beds, sleeping so peacefully and I realized at that moment that we had really done something. I thought back to the day that the construction was finished and I sat on this floor wondering what it would be like when children actually lived here. And now there I was listening to the peaceful sound of our 16 wonderful children sleeping—feeling safe, loved, and cared for in our home. There were not many moments in my life that can compare—it was truly a gift!