Here I sit, with my personal computer, in my regular routine, in my quaint little apartment above a cozy cafe, my stomach full, and my body well. I am comfortable. Oh how quickly I forget. It wasn’t that long ago that this reality fell away and I entered into something else. Something completely different. No resemblance to this place, this comfort, at all. And I thought I would never forget. I thought that this was the pivotal moment and my life would turn around. And it was. It did. But now I am here. Far from the place where stories and pain and joy and grief were sewn onto my heart. And I remain unaffected. I live as though it never happened. I brush the elementary kids off my arms at work and sigh at their stories and am absent of patience. I move through life undisturbed by the brokenness of those I am close with. I do my duty and all that’s expected of me and am done. I hate that. It’s not me. I am more than that. God has done a beautiful work in me and I refuse to let routine and apathy take over my compassion and love. I want to live in full remembrance of where I’ve been and what I have learned.
So I look back and read what I wrote then. I allow myself to feel and remember. And I am moved.
July 20, 2012
Morning at Shishu Bhavan, one of the Mother Teresa homes for children.
We walked into the courtyard, totally clueless as to where to go, so we wandered until we found one of the sisters and got our assignment for the day. We would be with the “toddlers”…the healthier children up for adoption. We walked in, no one really noticed. I found a place on the floor and two girls “read”/ memory-vomited nursery rhymes to me in their little school uniforms. I went with one of the sisters to drop them off at their school. I held the hand of a girl about 8 years old. She had plastic glasses and her short dress uniform, high socks, and black shoes. I held her fisted hand as she clung onto the two pieces of candy the sister had given her for the day. As we walked I was so frustrated. I felt lost and unwelcome. And the girl walked so slowly…dawdled along, twisting her body to watch the things and people we passed. When she turned to look, her leg also turned, which made her limp awkwardly and even more slowly. She almost ran into a pole and then again into a bamboo ladder that men were carrying down the street. I was irritated and even said under my breath, “What is your problem? Seriously, let’s walk normally and just get there!” I recognized this hardness and impatience and anger…I prayed “Jesus, I need you. I want to see you here. I don’t know how to love them. Why can’t I love this girl? I feel so frustrated.” We continued down a little ally and up a dark staircase to the classroom (I literally pulled her up some of the stairs…I showed no love to that child). The classroom was worn and old and faded and dusty. I hate that…why couldn’t they have nice things and beautiful schools like the ones I had?
I came back to the playroom. The toddlers all wore yellow patterned clothes…simple and handmade. They didn’t like the plastic glasses they wore, strapped to their heads with a plastic spiral or a coated wire, and most of the kids tried to take them off. The kids were bald…all shaven heads. It must be easier to take care of…and cleaner. It was shaving day today. Even the girls lost their pretty curls or tiny pigtails. Their heads looked misshapen and awkward. I hated the fighting cries as they went off with the sisters to the little designated shaving room. I peeked in once…the sister holding him across her lap, so calm as she moved the razor across the head of the screaming child. I rocked one boy in the plastic chair horse. He had no expression or emotion, no reactions. His legs were lifeless and so were his eyes. He stared at nothing…jerking his heavy head forward and back to rock the horse. He didn’t like to be touched. I saw him later on the floor alone, rocking back and forth. A sister came by and said, “He is so lazy and needs to walk.” So for the rest of the time he was held by his arms, his body dangling without the support of his legs.
All of a sudden they all were taken away to eat. I sat and waited, hung some laundry out on the terrace and thought about all of my frustration. I was frustrated with the kids, but also with the sisters. Yes, they played with the kids and held them and kissed them, but it didn’t feel intimate. Not like a parent’s love. But they aren’t the parents. These kids are still waiting for parents. How long will they wait? My anger is at the system and the situation, but I still feel bitter toward the people who are a part of it. It’s easier to be angry at people than at systems.
I entered the small room where lunch was being served and was hit with a carrot and a glob of rice. I looked to where it flew from and the boy just smirked at me. I sat on the grimy rice floor and began to feed a girl, who soon got whisked away to be shaved. I watched the volunteer next to me feed two kids. She smiled and laughed. The little boy blew raspberry kisses on her arm and touched her face. He pulled her face close and kissed her cheek with his smiling rice coated lips. She fed them without frustration or routine. He ran off to get a bald Barbie doll head to play with. She didn’t look at it disgustedly, but joined him in his play as she continued to feed him. He got up and came to me, held my face, kissed me, smiled and sat back down. He didn’t even know me, but gave me love.
Soon the girl came back, shaven head. I tied a soggy bib around her neck and she sat down in front of the pie tin and spoon full of cold rice and chicken mush that resembled a chunky sort of vomit. I lifted the spoon full of food to her mouth as I had seen the others do. She opened her mouth mechanically and I put the spoon of mush in and scraped it off with her teeth. She sat with it in her mouth, her eyes absent of all life or thought…pure loneliness and lifelessness. Soon she chewed and slowly swallowed. I had to put more in her mouth. I hated it. “Why can’t she be fed and loved. Where are her parents? What is this, God? Why? Why can’t she be loved more?” I held back tears as I looked on this child…holding the mush in her mouth thoughtlessly and blankly. “Would she even know how to be loved? If she were adopted, what would she do? Would she know how to eat? Will she ever know that this isn’t how it’s supposed to be?” I fed her a few more spoonfuls, getting frustrated because my heart hurt so much. “C’mon, chew chew swallow. Eat this. I know it’s disgusting. I’m sorry I have only this to give you.” I thought of Matthew 25, “What you do to the least of these you do to me.” It felt dumb…”Okay, so I’m feeding you Jesus. Literally feeding you in the least of these. But its gross and this isn’t right and I want to love you more but I physically don’t know how and can’t right now.” Soon it was time to leave. I didn’t finish feeding her…I just left. I hate that I dropped everything and left…will this child ever know real love?
Tonight we prayed as a group and read 2 Corinthians 4. The verse that stood out to me was verse 16, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” Today I saw my outwardness, my sinful, gross, disgusting heart. My selfishness and ugliness was apparent. I was ashamed of myself. But I was reminded that through this I am being renewed inwardly. My heart is changing. Rid me of myself, God. That’s what I prayed, and you are answering. You are changing me. Give me grace and teach me how to have grace for myself. Continue to reveal my outwardliness and rid me of this sinfulness. I want to be more like you, Jesus.