All of the wonderful people who volunteer for LWB know that I have a few rules about going on an official trip. One of them is that you can’t cry when you are in an orphanage, even though I know all too well that it is absolutely overwhelming at times to walk in and see crib after crib, filled with babies living without a mom or dad. The reason for this rule is that I never want any orphanage caregiver to misunderstand our tears. I would never want them to feel that we are crying out of judgment.
Well—I broke my own rule on this trip—thankfully in the back seat of a van and after we had already left the orphanage. Sometimes the need is just so immense. It is a sobering experience to hold a tiny baby and know she needs immediate medical help, and then have to put her down and walk away. I visited five orphanages in five days, and our list of children needing medical assistance grew and grew.
Many times I have thought that if any of us ever opened our front door to find a baby lying there – blue and struggling to breathe or severely malnourished, we would move heaven and earth to help her right that moment. We would take her to the emergency room, call the local newspaper to get the story out, do anything necessary to make sure that baby had a second chance. None of us would walk away from that one single baby in our path.
But when you are in an ORPHANAGE, surrounded by kids, and you look around realizing that every child needs some sort of assistance……where do you begin? How do you decide? I have learned there is no good way – and so you begin with ONE. One life at a time. And you pray for the others to stay strong until it is their turn and ask God to forgive you for getting on a jet plane and going back to your full pantry and warm home and so often needless spending on things you honestly don’t even need. All the while knowing in your heart that children are lying in orphanage cribs right this very moment going hungry and struggling with medical needs.
I think we are all guilty of forgetting what we have. I rarely think to give thanks for central heat. Running water? Glass windows? How many of us stand in front of 4-5 pairs of shoes each day (or more) deciding which pair to wear, never thinking of how many kids don’t own a single pair. How many of us eat more than a meager bowl of rice each day and yet forget our blessings? I would definitely have to raise my hand many times, and I am ashamed that it takes returning to rural China to bring me back to the reality of how many kids are orphaned. Of how many kids are alone. Of how many kids are waiting for just one person to fully believe in them.
On this trip, as wide eyed children froze and held their breaths when they saw the crackers in our bag, too scared to even hope that perhaps one would be for them, my mind went to my own kids coming home from school in the afternoon and thinking nothing of making a whole frozen pizza or a hot can of soup for a snack. I thought of the bowl of fruit on my counter they can always choose from. And how we can have an entire freezer full of food and yet they can innocently look at me and say, “mom, there’s nothing to eat in this house.”
And then I suddenly came back to the moment and realized that a nanny was placing a tiny baby with frostbite in my hands, and explaining that she was found in the mountains and the tops of her ears could not be saved. And my heart broke yet again by the immense needs of so many children in this world.
Today I ask you to pause for a moment and ask if you have also become complacent at times about the urgent situations facing so many orphaned children. It is so easy to put it out of our minds when that baby is not right outside our doorstep, and yet I can assure you that tiny baby is very real and very much in need right this moment for someone to care about her life.
So for the little girl we met with heart disease or the baby boy with a facial tumor or the tiny baby with clubfoot and cleft - can you make a $5 or $10 gift to help them find healing? I promise you won’t regret it. When we count our own blessings and then pay it forward – we really can change the lives of children in need.
Amy Eldridge, Executive Director