For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
I had just gotten a new camera for graduation, a Nikon D3100 with an interchangeable lens, auto correction zoom, and a good old fashioned viewfinder. It was my new obsession. When my family went to the beach, I practiced ways to capture a person's expression or the correct angle to create a sense of depth and personal connection between the viewer and the subject. Portraits were my favorite, and everyone had to get used to me shoving my camera lens in their faces. When it came time to pack for Honduras, I couldn't bear the thought of leaving it behind, so into my bag it went. I quickly became the classic American tourist, and took pictures of everything- the road, street signs, cars, fences- you name it. The one day that I failed to take many pictures, however, was the day our group visited the orphanage.
INFA is a government-run organization located just outside San Pedro Sula. It's a square building with a courtyard in the middle and encased by 30 ft. walls lined with barbed wire and a guard stand. The doors and windows all had bars built in, and the building gave the impression that it had been neglected for years. There were areas where the paint was peeling off and dirt had begun to fill in the cracks. The floors were concrete, and the rooms were gigantic holding pens for twenty kids at a time. Ice Age was playing in one of the rooms, apparently the same movie that was playing when a team member had visited two years previous. The kids there know no stranger; it didn't matter that we were gringos and had never met them before. We were capable of love and they begged that from us. They'd throw their arms around our waists and jump up to steal kisses, sometimes fighting for attention from the same person. I escaped from the older kids- they were too much for me to handle- and made my way to the baby room instead.
The room was split into two where one room held the healthy babies and the connecting room held the special needs children. The instant I entered the room, one little girl came waddling up to me, so I scooped her up into my arms and took a tour of the place. It was dark and crowded. Baby cradles lined the sides of the room with two or three occupants inside. Kids were crying and reaching out to us, but the scariest was one little girl who didn't make any noise at all or even respond when she was being touched. I made my way over to the special needs side where I saw ages ranging from babies to extremely severe older cases of mental retardation. There was one boy who had to be about 11 or 12 in a diaper sitting in his crib. He couldn't speak but reached out a hand to me, just to touch him. I knew that, like the babies around him, he just wanted to be held; it was the only mindset he would ever have, but I couldn't give him what he wanted. He was too big.
I wandered from crib to crib in the special needs room, noticing that most of the babies were silent, unaware of where they were or that I was even there. I stopped at one little boy who seemed content in his crib. His big brown eyes were crossed and he had the most beautiful smile I had ever seen. I added baby no. 2 into my arms.
I was told that the orphanage has the most hope for the babies to be adopted, that they are usually the first to go, but looking into this little boy's face was like being punished. He was a whole piece of God's world for me to see, but none for me to feel. All I knew was the pain that he was too lost to notice and the love that he was desperately lacking. I'm not sure if I can tell you the number of times I kissed him to try and make up for it, even if only for a minute.
When it came time to leave, I had to put him down in his crib and watch his smile disappear. He started crying, holding his arms up towards me. I've been babysitting since I was in the sixth grade, and usually letting kids cry doesn't bother me because I always have the intention of walking back. But this was different; I would not be returning.
The night we returned from Honduras, my boyfriend, Aaron, drove me home. It was a bad flight- I was dealing with some monthly issues and the airport had misplaced my luggage- but he knew there was more on my mind than just that. Returning to Virginia was like walking into a false sense of reality. My little bubble had expanded beyond Northern Virginia, and home no longer seemed to be enough. I couldn't stop thinking of that little boy. Aaron let me cry in his car, listening as I asked him who would ever adopt that baby, wondering if anyone would ever love him the same way that I do. Then Aaron reminded me that someone already does, more than I ever could.
I think sometimes I forget that feeling someone's love isn't as good as actually knowing that it's there. God's love is just that; it isn't something that changes the same way that people do; it is constant, sometimes forgotten, but universal. Even if that baby never knows a person's love in his lifetime, I can find some peace in knowing that a person is hardly anything compared to what God feels for him.