Worth About Everything
It was the little leg that did me in. We had received a request to take in a new baby for medical care, and as I glanced at her photo and saw her tiny leg sticking out from the blanket, I was a goner. Baby Jillian needed us immediately.
When she was found that morning, she was severely malnourished and extremely weak. Over the next few months, I watched her reports from our Starbridge Healing Home and was overjoyed to see her start to turn the corner and fill out.
There was a lot of excitement in my heart this past week as I flew to China to discuss the expansion of our home, as I knew I would get to meet Jillian face to face. She was, of course, even more amazing in person. As I reached out to hold her, I was reminded yet again that you can indeed fall in love with a child through photos – and then when you meet them in person, there is this intense recognition where you understand that each picture you have viewed is a living, breathing person. It’s quite astonishing, actually.
I moved on to meet each child in our Starbridge Healing Home and eventually came to little Carlos. Carlos has worried us greatly as he was born with a life-threatening infection in addition to his cleft lip. Most of the photos I had seen of him were of his face, and so I hadn’t really thought much about his overall size.
My heart skipped a little when I realized Carlos was smaller than a loaf of bread. He looked so completely vulnerable. And as you stand there and hold this tiny life, this little baby who weighs just a few pounds, it hits you so strongly that this child could not survive on his own.
Babies are 100% dependent on the kindness of others, and yet sadly all around the world they are left as newborns, as infants, as toddlers…to fend for themselves, which of course is simply not possible. And so that duty must then fall to someone else, very often complete strangers. That is the harsh reality for children who are abandoned. Unless someone “takes them in,” there truly is no hope. And right now in China, with a rising birth defect rate and more and more children being born with often complex medical needs, countless babies need help more than ever.
When I left China this time, it took me 52 hours to make the journey home because of the blizzard in the US. I was routed through seven airports, which gave me lots of opportunities to talk to my fellow travelers. As we waited in long lines, people would ask me where I was coming from or what it was I did for a living. When I said I helped orphaned children in China, I repeatedly was asked why I felt a need to help there, since “China now has so much money.”
How to even explain the reality for so many orphans there? It was still too raw and too fresh from my visit. I don’t think most people can even comprehend just how many babies are now entering orphanages with often serious medical needs, from heart defects and spinal tumors to cerebral palsy and prematurity. It is often overwhelming. How do you fully explain that your heart is never the same when a baby who is orphaned grabs onto your finger tightly, wanting so desperately to make a connection and memorize that feeling of being tenderly held?
The reality is that if I could place a tiny baby like Jillian in almost anyone’s arms, they would get it completely. They would then understand that she is not some nameless orphan overseas. She is a priceless, wondrous child whose life is so important. It wasn’t her fault she was left on her own or that she now depends entirely on the kindness of others to step up and care for her.
When about the tenth person on my return trip asked me, “Why do you feel a need to help there?” I remained quiet for a moment. I looked at the man in front of me, with his Bluetooth headset on, holding his iPhone 5 and anxious to get to Florida for his golf trip. He and I had been talking in the customer service line for over an hour, and I knew he was a sincerely nice man who was asking me a completely legitimate question. It’s a question I hear more and more with each passing year. Rather than go into a lengthy explanation about rising pollution and birth defect rates and lack of emergency services for orphaned children, I told him to hold on a second while I pulled out my camera. And then I showed him baby Carlos’ photo and told him, “I do it for him. He’s worth about everything, don’t you think?” He had to agree with me on that one.
Today I am giving thanks for all of the LWB supporters who make our work with orphaned children possible. Thank you for stepping forward to help those children who have found themselves parentless and often quite alone in the world. I don’t like to think about their beginnings, quite honestly. It hurts my heart too much. Left on sidewalks and beside temples, next to hospitals and in front of factories, each of the children who comes into our care has already been through too much in his or her short time on this earth. I know with absolute certainty, however, that their lives are better because of your involvement.
This week I held babies I know would not be on this earth today without your caring and compassion. My prayer as I held each of them was that they would find a permanent home of their own someday and never feel alone again. Thank you for working with us to make sure they are given that chance.
~Amy Eldridge, Chief Executive Officer