Message of the Day: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Abna said he would turn two in September, but I could have sworn U. was only six months old. He couldn’t talk, and he only recently learned to walk, but boy could he cry. We only stayed in his home long enough to see the small living room that served double duty as a kitchen with a stove off to one side and not a thing out of place, the mismatched tiles without a speck of dust, the ceramic animal figurines lined up neatly in rows along the shelf, and the lace curtains that kept what was private private. I would have loved to ask his mother why she was hospitalized so many times during her pregnancy, why U. was so small, and why he had such stranger anxiety. But her absence and his crying didn’t allow for that, so we moved on.
Up the stairs and through the haze of something that just recently became legal in some states, we found the son of the niece of the mother of the crier downstairs. K. was 17 months old and while anxious at first he quickly warmed up to the books and toys that kept coming from the big, black bag. He loved to dance to the American pop music blaring from below and much to our delight, he loved to smile. A young man came by and dropped off K.’s cousin, just three months younger, and the two of them did just what little ones do- fight over toys they wouldn’t even look at five minutes ago when no one was touching it, hug each other one minute, and bite each other the next. Then it was time to move on.
S. spotted Abna from the balcony, “Abna! Toys?! Abna! Toys?!” But the great-grandmother caring for her said she hadn’t had her bath and wasn’t properly dressed so could we come back Wednesday. Abna walked the fine line of wanting to help S. and not disappoint her while still respecting the matriarch’s wishes. So she said we would come back later. As we walked away we heard S. calling from the balcony, “Toys?! Later?!” I could see it made Abna a little sad, but we moved on.
After lunch we walked to a group of houses surrounding a garden and the smallest one, the blue one to the left, was our destination. Of all the places we saw today, this was the most destitute. There lived M. with his mother and four-year-old sister. He was another crier and clinged to his mother for dear life. But his sister was beautiful, eating chicken off a Tupperware lid in the prettiest little white floral dress without a stain on it. A yellow rope held the full-sized foam mattress up against the wall and the six of us just fit in the room. M. continued to cry until Bella started to read, and then M. and his sister were transfixed. Hypnotized. You know how they say reading can transport you to different worlds? Well, I saw it today in the eyes of these children and my daughter took them there. I wished we had 50 books in that black bag that we could have kept pulling out one after the other, because once she stopped, the magic was gone, the crying returned, and we moved on.
At the end of the day was baby N., only four months old and well above the growth curve (I actually saw it on his health card with records of his shots, visits, weight, and everything). 12 Years a Slave was on the TV and the soap scene made it a little difficult to focus, but a cute baby is tough to ignore, so we played and we sang and then we moved on.
Back in the library we talked about some of the logistical problems of the day and the frustration with not being able to do more. For that I like to think about – I think it was Bernice’s goal – that we are a part of groundbreaking work. We are BREAKING GROUND!! And in so doing, the path is not always smooth. The work may not be glamorous and we may not make great strides, but hopefully we continue to move on and light the path for those who come after us. On the way back to the hotel we talked about how it’s so difficult to see how you can make a difference when there’s so much need. For that I like to think about the story of the starfish. I’ve already gone on too long, but just let me assure you, KEEP MOVING ON. You are making a difference. It may be small, but the ripple effect is huge.
Entry submitted by: Patricia Evans