I knew that look.
I recognized it all too well.
The look in their eyes of hurt... of abandonment.
I wanted so badly to take it away... to hug them and tell them everything would be okay. And for that to be true.
I spent yesterday in Mexico with a group from my church. We loaded up cars and drove down, as we have many times before. Our first stop was far off the road, over lots of bumpy terrain. There we found a small church and a school and a whole lot of wonderful people.
One girl in particular kind of caught my eye. She seemed to be a little light in the crowd of kids. She immidiately began speaking to me quickly.. and in Spanish. I understand some Spanish, but not well enough to speak it back to her. I grabbed Javier and asked him to translate. She was looking intently at my eyes, and back to her doll. Her doll had green eyes. She had never seen real green eyes. But she quickly noticed that mine were green too. As we got to talking to this little girl, she began to tell her story. Her family lives here in the United States, but she has been unable to cross the border. At 15 years old, she has tried and failed 3 times. The most recent time, she was caught and taken to a detention center where she spent 3 months scared and alone before she was sent back to Mexico... once again, alone. When I asked her if she would try again, she said no. She no longer wanted to come. She knew that God had a plan for her there in Mexico. Her eyes were sad at times, but they sparkled as she spoke of what God might have for her.
Our next stop was at an orphanage that houses abused children. There were about 25 boys there and they all had stories. They were excited to have new toys, and I was excited to hug them. The director walked us around and showed us where the boys sleep. It was a big open room with lots of bunk beds. Each bed was the same, but also very different. They had the same sheets and blankets, but each bed had different toys on top. Most of the beds had lots of stuffed animals, but a few beds had none, and one bed had a single stuffed toy. The director told us how each bed really told about the individual children. Most of them had been there long enough that their hearts were starting to mend and they were opening up. The beds with no toys were the boys that were still somewhat new. They were still trying to be tough, and not opening themselves up. The bed with just one toy was a boy who was determined to be different. Then another bed caught my eye. It appeared to have two plastic trees, with two stuffed animals between. But there was so much more to the story.
The director walked over and picked up one of the stuffed animals and pulled out a plastic figurine. He began to tell us the story of this boy. His parents didn't want him, so they handed him off to an aunt. His aunt didn't want him either, so she handed him off to a friend. The friend didn't keep him long and he ended up in a random house a couple of cities away. Those people brought him to this place. He had explained to the director that the two stuffed toys were the parents, and the parents were sheltering and keeping thier little boy (the plastic figurine) safe. That's where they lost me. I had been holding back tears throughout our time at the orphanage, but finally the tears gave way and rolled down my face. Then the sobs came. I choked them back as much as possible, but a couple escaped. I walked over to the bed and looked at the tag on the pillow. It read "Alonso". I stepped out of the room and frantically tugged at Javier's sleeve. I begged him to ask one of the kids who Alonso was. He did. The kids started looking for Alonso. We found him on his skateboard behind the bus. The kids were calling to him in Spanish, and soon he was in front of me. I asked Javier to translate and tell him that I wanted to take a picture with him and would that be okay. A wide grin spread accross his serious face, but only for a brief moment before he supressed it. He cooperated, and then I hugged him. A big hug. I wanted to tell him everything would be okay... and I wanted it to be true.
We left that orphanage several hours later. I don't know what kind of an impact we had on those kids, but I know they left a lasting impact on me. Valentine's day is a day of love. A day of celebrating your love. But there are so many people who have no one to love them. As Javier and I talked on the long ride back to the United States, I told him I would love to start a tradition of finding ways, even little ways, of loving the unloved on Valentines day.
Happy Valentine's Day to everyone! This year, think outside the box and love someone other than your love. Spread the love! :)