Friday, October 17, 2014

From a distance

One of my favorite artists is Kathy Mattea.  She has a beautiful song called, "From a Distance."  Although I haven't listened to this song for a very long time, it popped into my head the other day while at the Children's Home.  I ran into one of the older boys.  Because he is so private, I am going to call him Juan.  Juan struggles with depression.  One day a group of teen boys were sitting together.  As I said goodbye, I went to each one and hugged him and kissed his forehead.  When I got to Juan, he shied away and cringed as though it was physically painful.  The physical contact he grew up with, before coming to us, was not the embrace of a loving parent.  I took him aside and observed that he did not like hugs or kisses.  He looked down, shrugged and almost imperceptibly nodded.  OK, I said.  From now on I will give you air hugs, demonstrating a virtual hug pointed in his direction.  "Whenever you see me do this, remember that I love you."  He hid a grin and agreed.  The next time I saw him I gave him an air hug.  He laughed and ran up and hugged me!  

We have another teenage boy, I'll call him Mario, who recently has really struggled with a deep depression.  For most of his life, he thought his mother was dead, as did we.  He was our one true orphan we thought.  Out of the blue, IHNFA (Children's Services) sent us an address of a possible relative.  It turned out to be his mother!  He was overjoyed and eagerly waiting for visiting day to see her and get to know her.  Instead, the mother vanished....again.  No one knows where she is.  It seemed almost worse for him to meet his mother only to lose her again.

A few years ago we got a girl, I'll call her Nina, about 7 years old.  She had been removed from her home due to horrific abuse.  She was welcomed into the girls' cabin and made friends quickly.  Nevertheless, she always had a forlorn look on her face.  Something was missing in her life.

The children all look forward to teams coming.  They bring excitement, activities, treats, soccer games, and, most important, love.  Some children are overjoyed when their "madrina" or "padrino" steps out of the van, sometimes bearing gifts, sometimes not.   The three children I described above didn't have madrinas or padrinos.  They would either disappear or watch forlornly as the joyous reunions took place.

Then, one by one, each got their own madrina or padrino!  (Godmother/Godfather through our sponsorship program) I have been asked whether this program really helps, apart from the monthly donation.  My response?  The financial part is certainly important and appreciated but the kids know nothing about that.  What they care about and yearn for is the relationship.  The knowledge that someone loves them, someone prays for them.  That they are special and precious to someone.  They love and look forward to the visits, of course, but it is the love that they treasure.  

Let's go back to Juan.  When I ran into him he shyly and hesitantly asked me when his madrina was coming back.  There was a question in his voice, as though he was really saying, "Do I still have one?  Does she still love me?"  I answered, "She is coming Saturday!"  He paused and then broke out into a huge smile!  Yes...Juan.  She does love you.

Mario was really struggling.  One night he was so distraught he "ran off."  He never left the property but we didn't know where he was.  It started pouring rain.  We were all frantic and enormously relieved when he straggled back to his cottage, cold and wet.  The next day, I went out to see him.  I wanted to tell him how worried we all were and how much we love him.  I hugged the stuffing out of him!  He asked me to wait a bit.  Soon, he ran up to me with a photo album and showed me pictures of his madrina and others, including his mother.  He smiled as he showed off his relationships, his connections.  

One day, a team member decided to be Nina's madrina.  As she told Nina, Nina broke out into a huge grin.  Her tia said, "Oh Nina, you have been praying for a madrina!"  Answered prayers!

"But what if I can't visit often, or at all? How can I be in relationship if I don't speak Spanish?" I am often asked.  It isn't the money or the small gifts or cards (although they love them like any child does,) what these children hunger for is love and relationship.  Someone to make cards for, to write to, to hug during visits.  Someone they belong to, someone they know gives them unconditional love.  

If you are a madrina or padrino (sponsor) I want to assure you that the children know and love you. They want to know you better.  Send pictures of your family, your pet, or of something you are doing.  A card, a letter, or email is treasured.  We'll take care of translating them.  If you can, come visit them. If you can't, they'll understand.  A small (in $ and size) birthday or Christmas gift is wonderful.  We can always get them down in someone's suitcase.  

We have several children who do not have madrinas or padrinos.  How about you?  Do you want to love one of our children? Follow this link to learn more:

Love is love, even from a distance.