Sometimes when the children hug me, I wonder if I’ll catch their lice. But I don’t stop them. I love watching them run to meet me as I walk down the dirt path to the orphanage school. The little ones rush to hold my hand. They chatter away, even though they know I don’t understand most of what they tell me. I do manage to catch the phrase “billi ke bacche” (the cat’s children) and I follow their pointing fingers to a small box behind the shed at the edge of the garden.
The other day a few of us took the children to a neighborhood park to play. They arrived in neat little outfits, hair brushed, and shoes on their feet. My heart just opened up all over again and tenderness for these vulnerable little beings filled my entire body and spirit. I watched as the older boys—9 or 10 years old—pushed the little girls on the swings. Two boys, one with legs bent from polio, walked hand in hand to get snack.
During the last few months, we’ve cut and colored, sculpted with play dough, told stories, danced, and sang. The children greet me week after week with open arms and shouts of “Hello, Auntie”. They live and love totally in the present moment. I went to the orphanage to give, and ended up receiving instead.