Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Walking In The Rain

"And I want to know
Have you ever seen the rain?

Coming down on a sunny day."
 - Have You Ever Seen The Rain, by Creedence Clearwater Revival

The children at Casa Adalia, the ones I wrote about two posts ago, completely frustrate me and subsequently break my heart. When I say that they are wild, I'm not exaggerating. I've been kicked, hit, spit on, screamed at, and found myself yelling and being rough right back in order to keep the kids from hurting each other and the house. They enjoy scraping stools across the floor just to hear the squeal on the tile, throwing things to purposefully break or hurt, and on Monday I found myself leaping across the room to stop the boys from pulling the huge, old, heavy TV down on top of themselves. Yet ... I love them. It didn't take long to see that their response of behaving worse when called out is because they're getting attention and want more attention and haven't learned a better, healthier way of attaining it. They act out not just because they haven't fully learned why their actions hurt others and that everything doesn't revolve around their whims, but because they want so desperately to be noticed and loved. Their mom had her first child when she was 15: she's a survivalist, abused since she was little, still an emotional child herself.

On Monday I needed to pick up four-year-old "Stephen" from school. It was a fifteen-minute walk through the rain. I stood with the rest of the moms and caretakers, looking for the boy whose bright eyes light up with mischief and excitement and become so achingly sad when he is punished. When Stephen saw me, he held out his arms to be picked up. We walked out of the school and along the sidewalk, crowded as always with vendors selling everything from grilled plantains to baby clothes, Stephen happily wrapped around my hip. We stopped to buy some eggs and bread and Stephen insisted on pulling the wheeled basket. When we left the store, Stephen again reached out his arms to be carried, but I couldn't carry the groceries, umbrella, and him. I also couldn't say no. For him, this was a little slice of time when he got to have someone all to himself. He wanted to make the most of it and so did I.

I knelt down and motioned for him to climb onto my back and hold on. As we walked on, Stephen was like a little monkey on my back, sliding down and wigging around and sometimes clasping his arms so tight around my neck I found it hard to breathe. He giggled in my ear as we walked around people and mannequins. He was so content.

Stephen asked if he could hold the umbrella, so I passed it to him and on we went, walking through the rain to the chaos and hope of the place currently called home. We may not know what the future will bring, but for the moment we are happy; the girl and the little boy on her back, holding onto a blue umbrella in the rain.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Burdened And Free

Families suffering years of abuse, women and men in prostitution, girls trafficked into the sex industry, and neglected boys who end up living on the streets. So many needs. So thankful for grace.

Make me burdened
Make me free
Continually, then, to hone
My life, so that I give and hope
Yet in Your strength alone

I see the hurt
I feel the pain
This empathy is Your gift
With mercy overall You reign
To mend this mighty rift

Am I good
And am I strong?
I often do believe
So gently show me I am wrong
To You more firmly cleave

I am human
I am Yours
Born and reborn by grace
To navigate this mortal course
One day to see love's face

Make me salt
And make me light
Humble, brave, and true
In Your armor, stand and fight
Burdened and free, for You

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Being Spit On and Being Loved

"Won't you run come see St. Judy's Comet roll across the skies
And leave a spray of diamonds in it's wake
I long to see St. Judy's Comet sparkle in your eyes when you awake
Oh, when you wake

Little boy, little boy, won't you lay your body down?
Little boy, little boy, won't you close your weary eyes?
Ain't nothing flashing but the fireflies"

 - St. Judy's Comet, by Paul Simon

There is a family with four kids at Casa Adalia now. I quickly began describing them with two opposite adjectives: wild, and sweet. They are loud and rambunctious, getting wound up quickly and hanging all over me and acting out to get attention. They squabble over toys, hitting and yelling and getting more out of control when they hear the word 'no'. But even the oldest girl, an eight-year-old who often takes charge watches over the little ones, will jump into my arms, simply wanting to be held and loved. They grew up in poverty before being uprooted, taken by their mother to get away from their dad who becomes abusive when drunk and staying in shelters before landing here, in Casa Adalia. A new place with new rules, new people, and no dad. No wonder their response it to act out.

It was Tuesday morning. I was cleaning up from breakfast when the four-year-old, 'Stephen', found a nail file and began to file the walls.
"Por favor, darme eso," I said. (please, give me that)
Stephen continued to try and remove the paint from the walls. I stepped towards him and he ran up the stairs. He waited for me to come after him before filing a little more and then tossing the file up a few stairs. I chased him up the stairs until he was at the top and I finally reached and grabbed the file before he could. Frustrated though victorious.

But Stephen knew something I didn't know.

He had a mouth full of chocolate milk that he hadn't swallowed, because kids like to keep things in their mouths for whatever reason. (If someone could explain this phenomenon to me, I would be very interested.)

That was when Stephen decided to spit chocolate milk. On my white shirt, my face, and down the stairs.

It took me two seconds to get up the four steps separating Stephen from me, grab him around the waist and hoist him to my hip like a football. I marched him downstairs, stood him in the kitchen, wiped my face with a paper napkin and handed it to him.

"You're going to clean all of that up right now," I said. I led him to the stairs and pointed out each chocolate milk spot for him to wipe up. We went up and down the stairs, cleaning everything. Stephen knew that he had done something bad and I was upset.  He wiped up each spot without complaining or trying to get away from me. We went back to the kitchen, threw away the napkin, and I knelt down beside Stephen.

"What you did was not nice," I told him. I explained why he had to clean up the mess, and made a joke about how chocolate milk wasn't good on a white shirt, right? I smiled and held Stephen by the shoulders, but he simply stared at the ground.
"Hey," I said. "You're a good kid. What you did was bad but you're a good kid. I love you. Do you want a hug?"

Stephen threw himself into my arms. I picked him up and sat down at the kitchen table, just holding him. He clung to me, snuggling his head against my shoulder. We sat there for about ten minutes, me simply holding that wild little boy and him running his fingers up and down my arm, contrasting the difference between his dark African-Ecuadorian skin and mine. He knew that what he did was wrong, he submitted to the consequence, mild as it was, but above anything else he needed to know one thing: that he was still loved.

Sometimes, I remember times when I was very young and would react in ways I knew weren't good or logical, crying because I didn't want to eat a new food or because I wanted my dad to come give me a second goodnight kiss. I knew I was being silly yet in the moment, what I wanted was more important that making sense or listening to anything else. I remember receiving due punishment, and I remember feeling the powerful need to have my parent's love reaffirmed.
"I did something bad, but you still love me, right? You love me?"

Stephen ran his fingers up and down my arm, up and down, over and over. I held him and kissed the top of his head. I'm not his mom or sister or relative. I've only known him for a couple of weeks, but I want him to know: he is loved. He is very loved.