After a rough day at the orphanage yesterday (the one with 51 children of varying ages from young children through adolescence), I had a very good day today.
Yesterday I wondered if anything I did mattered. I realize that all help is good help, but if I weren’t here, would it just be someone else, and even if it were someone else, would that matter. What would happen if no one were here to volunteer. Nothing. Kids are tough and they are resilient and they would find a way to survive. But then, thanks to someone’s Facebook status reminding me that, “There is no such thing as a small kindness” (I forget who the quote was attributed to), and a quote from a book about Mother Teresa I’m reading (no I don’t at all compare myself to her, but am inspired by some of her words) that reminds us that “we don’t have to do great things, just small things with great love,” or something very close to that. And to top it all off, I happened to come across this talk:
I like that he reminds us that the Lord has a plan to help people and to help people who want to help and I want to help.
Finally, a conversation with a good friend about what remember from being very young. The odd things you remember. The one or two sentences or minutes in time that someone did something, good, or bad, that has stuck with us and shaped how we view certain situations.
I just have to remember that at any moment, THAT moment, might be one that these kids do remember. A small kindness that one of them might be saying one day, “you know what I remember from when I little that make a huge impact on me”, or even if I can just give them one hug the matters, then I’ve done enough.
It’s hard here. It’s hard to see so many ADORABLE and AMAZING children go without everything I want them to have. I don’t mean things, I mean attention, hugs, reminders of how much potential they have, confidence builders. It’s not that I’m afraid I won’t give them these things, it’s that I’m afraid the few short months I’m here won’t be enough of a reminder. And it’s not like the workers and other volunteers don’t give them what they need in these aspects, too. They do, at least as much as they can.
Often when I go in I’m pretty much invisible. I try to stand back and be as helpful as possible. Often times I’m completely ignored. The workers are off busy somewhere else. Sometimes there are other volunteers there, sometimes not. At this particular orphanage, usually not. I always try to find the workers first before to see if they need help but as I was sent home yesterday early, having completed a lot of chores, I decided I was just going to be a little more proactive (which I wasn’t before, trying to be respectful and helpful rather than be in the way). It was a huge hit.
I arrived to find probably 30 kids running around outside. I just found a small area on the grass and sat down. Of course, there were several kids who instantly came over to give and receive hugs and some just curious as to who I was, as I’d always been in the back catching them up on laundry. I had pipe cleaners. That’s it. Just pipe cleaners. So I opened up my back pack and was immediately swarmed. I didn’t think it could be such a big hit. Not knowing much Spanish we were still able to make some order out of things and the children quickly learned that there was to a line and they could each have 5 of their choosing. It was kind of fun to see how excited the kids got, and to see what they came up with. Oddly enough, the biggest and most immediate game became getting back in line to trade their previously chosen pipe cleaners for new ones. I would only allow them to trade one at a time because there were so many kids wanting to trade. I don’t even think that they necessarily wanted different pipe cleaners. They just wanted to trade. And so it became more of a circle than an like with an end. Kids would come and trade one and circle back to the end of the line to trade again. It’s always funny to see what kids can turn into a game. And today, this was the game.
There was one boy, probably about 9 years old who kept trying to be a playa; getting to the front of the line he would try to sway me for additional turns or additional pipe cleaners with puppy-dog eyes and calling me, “Tia, oh Tia”. And smacking his lips like a pop sensation before saying, “come on girl”. It was pretty hysterical...and ineffective. I worked with kids long enough not to be swayed but such awesome attempts and “working it”. I’m sure it works on lots of people though. I just did the same thing back to him and went, “awww, Amigo”....to which he could barely keep a straight face.
A few people including my “amigo” I just mentioned hung out around me and I helped them to make shaped with their pipe cleaners, mostly corazons and estrellas (hearts and stars) and a few gaffes (silly glasses). Eventually everyone had their shapes and we were sitting around goofing off in the grass when I started using the grass to whistle through my thumbs. Instant knew games. These guys love anything new and were super excited to learn and practice. At first they jeered each other, but with a bit of luck and a lot of work, they were soon cheering for each other and getting excited instead of upset when someone else was able to get the whistle down. It started raining a bit and so I learned how to say raining-which I have already forgotten (ugh).
One girl came up to our little group and wanted me to repair her star wand (she kept saying repair in Spanish but I forget what the word is right now-I’m typing from the beach so my mind is pretty blank :) as it should be). I had no idea what she was saying so I pulled out my dictionary and gave it to one of the older boys who started looking up words for me. They got all excited about looking up words and trying to say them correctly in English. So we all learned a little bit of a foreign language that day as well.
It was a good day.