To visit an orphanage takes you to places you don’t expect. It’s not the place you go to… the orphanage, the kids, the conditions, and the needs. It’s the places in your heart and your own conditions and needs that become opened and exposed. First to yourself and then if you let yourself become vulnerable, to your cam padres. As you meet the eyes of a child, a connection is made. As the only language the heart can truly hear is love, when one is in a foreign land, it may be the only one you can communicate.
Today we visited two orphanages in Bangkok, Thailand. The first was for kids with disabilities. We come as six friends and colleagues to see how we may bring some joy, if even for a moment to a child. Scott has toys, stickers and magic tricks. Jana brings her guitar and gift of song. Laurie is ready to lead the Hokey Pokey. Shari will demonstrate the three kinds of laughter. Mark will film and capture some magical moments and me… well I get to share a word or two though the translator and then lose myself in holding children who reach out for hugs or to be picked up.
We are careful ask how we may interact and the do’s and don’ts and protocols. It is our desire to strive to bring dignity to each moment. Yet, once within the orphanage with our gracious hosts from Hope Worldwide… Well it’s six friends and a group of kids.
So in we go for our first visit and within moments it seems that all is forgotten and children begin to coax us out of ourselves with their smiles and hugs. As the barriers of communication begin to quickly drop, so do the walls around our own hearts. It’s the gentle prodding of our play coupled with their joy that meets across the atrium and within moments kids are reaching out for hugs and to be lifted from the concrete, into your caring embrace. Try to set a child down and they lift their feet as to say, “I can’t touch the ground, so not yet. Please, not yet. Just play with me in such a way that I get to be hugged.”
So this morning we both give and receive hugs for hello. The trinkets we leave behind are memories of the play and touch, the smiles and song, the laughter and the grace of connecting hearts… even if for just a moment.
It’s interesting that as we come to reach out, hoping to make even a small difference, they in turn give us a gift of opening our hearts. Often the waves of tears we experience are not about the conditions of the orphanage; it’s the condition of our own hearts being revealed. So you meet and know each other a bit… and yourself even more. Hugs for hello…