Making a difference is one of those things that everybody aspires to do. I sure want to be one of those people… someone who is dynamic and passionate and yet caring and sweet-and-happy-all-of-the-time, all at the same time. Don’t you?
It’s hard. It’s really, really hard. Sometimes I can hit three-out-of-four. I can be dynamic and passionate and caring. I navigate orphanage relationships, get kids into hospitals, teach a new nanny how to feed a baby with a cleft lip and palate, faithfully pray for the new sick ones, cry for the ones that don’t make it, inspire, equip, energize and advocate.
But it never is enough… no matter how fantastic I manage to be at all of this, I can never do it all, and I get kinda cranky and a bit not-so-sweet, and my joy starts withering. Such is humanity, we were not created to be All in All. But that’s another post for another time…
In July my family moved up to the province of Inner Mongolia, China. After spending nearly four years working with the incredible team at New Day Foster Home’s Beijing campus, it was time for us to go and start something new. A new branch, new projects, new relationships.
Ya’ll, it’s been the hardest ten months of my entire life.
Doing my favorite thing in the world, loving and caring for orphans; bringing them hope, finding them families… I almost gave up. I wanted to give up. It hurt too hard.
Each and every week we would take a two-hour train ride to an orphanage. It was either me and my mom, or my dad and I. I was the translator, the liaison, the relationship. My parents were the experts, the teachers, the directors. So often, on the Wednesday night before our Thursday orphanage-trip, my mom and I would scurry about the house getting things ready. She’d finish the children’s goal sheets, based off of their assessments that we’d done the week before. I’d make sure my camera was charged and had an empty memory card inside, pack a bag with the stethoscope, pulse/oxometer, hand-knitted hats, headbands with flowers on them and a few packages of Pedialyte and Nuk bottles. It was a bulky bag.
And each night, midway during our scurries around the living room, one of us would start talking about what we had to do the next day. It wouldn’t take long until we were both in tears and at least one of us had insisted that I just can’t go this week. Why do we do this? Let’s just stay home. We would then go to bed, wake up before the crack of dawn the next morning and chase down our train after a nauseating taxi ride to the station.
Two hours later, as we step out of our taxi onto the orphanage grounds and my favorite nanny catches my eye through the window of the baby-room and then picks my little baby boy and holds him against the pane and waves his hand, the impossible task that we have – the job to step through those doors, to put one foot in front of the other – seems almost possible.
What is so hard about it? Why do we sob into our pillows the night before orphanage-trips?
Because despite the fact that we are in a position to do good and to make a change, it doesn’t always happen that way. Or, at least it doesn’t always happen our way.
We arrange for donations of baby dolls and a play kitchen so that the children will learn some creative play skills. Any play skills at all would be an improvement, actually. But a week after the celebration where all the staff came to help open the packages and watch the children pretend to cook and to feed and to cuddle… the kitchen is boxed up in the corner and the dolls are locked in the cabinet, and each is missing a limb, or a head. It’s not the children’s fault for playing a bit rough… what do you think would happen if you gave 18 toddlers six baby dolls? As their only playthings? And it’s not the nanny’s fault that keeping the kitchen upright and safe was impossible and they worried about it being damaged, or a child getting hurt, and so they boxed it back up because there are only two of them working with 18 love-hungry and hungry-in-general toddlers and do you mamas think that you could contain this sort of potential chaos?
We understand why the staff do things like this. But that doesn’t mean it hurts any less when we spend hours finding just the right kitchen set, only to see it become a burden and the children just as they were before.
We understand that one mama cannot provide all that’s needed for 8 tiny little hearts and souls, but that doesn’t mean that it’s okay. It doesn’t mean that we can ever feel okay about it.
This should never ever, ever be something that I’m okay with.
So every night before our day at the orphanage we cry, but the next morning we press on. And the weeks tick by and we have an even bigger cry because it doesn’t seem like we’ve done anything until suddenly one day we’re signing a contract with the directors and hiring nannies and cringing as they paint giant dolls on the wall of our room. Our room.
Joy always comes in the morning, doesn’t it? But just like the Israelites couldn’t cross the Jordan until they took their first step… we have to get wet first. We have to get uncomfortable. And just like Elijah was commanded to dig ditches and trust that the rain would come, we must do the hard, the crazy, and the seemingly pointless before the rain comes. But the rain comes. And the river parts. And hope starts rising.