Our post about Jorge caused a lot of buzz. As did our post about Stellan. And Max. And Aimee. And Zelena. And Joe. And Jayne. And, they all found families (almost…we are still working on Jorge)! Job well done, right? Not quite. Don’t get me wrong, for these children who are/will be orphans-no-more, absolutely. We fell in love with them, their stories tugged at our heart-strings, we shared, we pleaded, and we found their families. But for each Jorge, for each Stellan, for each Max and Aimee and Zelena, for each Joe and Jayne, there are millions of other children. Waiting. Millions of others just as amazing. Just as worthy. Just as in need of a family. And while we celebrate each and every child that finds a family, our thoughts are also always pulled back to the others. To those still waiting, to those who we don’t have the time to share, and to those who have lost their chance because of age, or because of death.
It’s taken me a lot longer to write this post than I had ever imagined. I had grand plans of blogging throughout the trip about the kids, the experiences, the food, the people I met, and everything else that I encountered. That changed the second I walked into that place. One of my travel mates who had been there before warned us to use the restroom prior to arriving, as we would not want to use the dirt hole dug in the earth of the communal ‘bathroom.’ When we arrived, there were kids meandering around the grounds. But, as opposed to the orphanage we were at the day before, they had no interest in us. They looked scared, they were dirty, they just seemed completely lost. They continued to wander while we had our meeting. Following our meeting, we were led into the first ice cold ‘school’ room. The silence of a room filled with 15-20 toddlers was deafening. They all looked at us, but it was as if they were looking through us. My eyes were met by glazed over stares of children who not only had no desire to interact with us, but had no idea how. The baby girl with Down syndrome in the jumper chair, in the corner, stared right through me. I went over to her. As soon as I got close enough to touch her hand, she recoiled in fear. I sat close to her on that cold, dirt floor, for what felt like hours. Not looking at her, as I did not want to scare her further. I was just there. Waiting. For her. Finally, she accepted my touch of her hand. Not a holding, just a touch. She almost reached out for more, but then reconsidered. That was ok. I touched her hand for as long as she let me, without looking at her. Just being there with her. My heart was internally shredded into a million pieces. This was all she could handle.
To say the trip changed me is an understatement. Rocked me to my core is more like it. But I’m ok with that. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about sitting on that floor. Feeling cold myself, and then guilty that I, the privileged American, felt cold. How dare I feel cold. These children have to live like that. And I was cold for an hour. I know that hour did not have an impact on her life. I know that touching her hand did not change her reality. I’m not that naïve. But boy did it change my reality. And I am not saying that in an egotistical way. I know this isn’t about me. And I guess that’s my point. If I even have a point in this post. The trip pretty much slapped me across the face with the reality of the lives these children live. These children that I work to serve. These children who I share with you all, day in and day out, in hopes of finding families for. The trip not only spurred in me a stronger work ethic to try even harder for these kids, but it has knocked me off my materialistic, privileged pedestal. And to those of you who know me, know that pedestal was not tall to begin with. But now, almost every minute of every day, brings me back to that moment. That moment on the cold floor. Simply touching the hand of a lost soul, while looking down so as not to scare her with my gaze. I think of her every time my ‘to-do’ list overwhelms me, I think of her every time the fleeting thought goes through my mind as to if my kids ‘have enough,’ I think of her when I burn the appetizer that I was making for the party starting in ten minutes. I think of her over and over and over again. And she brings me back. Brings me back to what is important.
I don’t even know where I’m going with this. Whenever I’m asked to compose a letter for the agency, or a blog post, I always start with ‘what is the purpose?’, ‘who is the audience?’…I can’t answer either of those questions with this post. I guess this post is just me still trying to process what I experienced on that trip. And, not sure I ever will fully process it. Not sure I ever want to fully process it. As, fully processing it might mean forgetting it. And I know that will never happen. Those moments are seared into places in my being where they can never be erased.
When I think of Joe, living out his happily-ever-after in his forever family, I smile and well up. As I do when I think of Stellan and Max’s families racing to get to them in time, and Aimee, and Jayne, and Zelena, and soon Jorge. But as soon as I wipe that tear of joy that comes when thinking of these kids, another takes its place as I’m transported back to that cold dirt floor. And I think of all the others who still need us.
My plea to you is this – if you have been touched by a post, or a particular child, but didn’t take the leap because the child was matched with another family, please, we beg of you, leap anyway. Start your home study. Dive in head first. Because for every Jorge. For every Stellan and Max and Jayne and Zelena and Aimee and Joe, there are millions.MILLIONS of others waiting. Waiting for you.
Madison Adoption Associates is a fully Hague accredited non-profit adoption agency with programs in Colombia, China, Bulgaria, and Philippines, as well as Home Study services for adoptive families in DE, PA, NJ, and IL. For more information about any of our programs, please call our main office at (320) 475-8977, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.