There are so many things I’d like to write about that I’m not sure where to start. I think I’ll begin with thankfulness. We have very little internet access right now, as I mentioned in my last post. When I have been able to log on to Facebook, I’ve seen countless friends writing their daily “I’m thankful for” updates to celebrate this month of Thanksgiving. I feel like I generally walk around cognizant of some of the ways in which I have been blessed beyond measure – sometimes I am overcome with emotion and gratitude for what God has provided my family. It may all sound cliché but it’s true – there are nights when I go to bed and lie there with tears of thankfulness streaming down my face because I know what I have. And I know what others don’t have. Or at least I think I do.
Tonight, as I sit in someone else’s kitchen thousands of miles away from my own home, I have been reflecting on some of the things I take for granted. I’m okay at remembering some of the big things I’ve been given – like freedom of religion, a home, good healthcare, etc – but what about other things, like communication? I rarely consider what a gift that is. Here, the Cryllic alphabet and Russian language mean a constant struggle for us to buy food, get directions, or figure out what people want us to do. The day we arrived in our region (last Friday) I lost my voice and have been fighting an upper respiratory virus ever since. It has been very unpleasant and though I’ve gotten medication it hasn’t worked too well – and don’t ask me what it is because I have no idea, LOL! This isn’t a complaint – I’ve been here once before and I knew it would be challenging. It’s just a reminder that being able to talk and share information with those around us is something to be thankful for!
And water – I will try to never take that for granted again. Sometimes our apartment building has no hot water. Other times it has no water, period. It usually only lasts for a short amount of time but it’s enough to make me thankful that I just don’t have to deal with it on a daily basis at home. Rob and I have been somewhat reckless with our use of the water. There are people who travel here and use bottled water for everything, including brushing teeth, washing dishes, and cooking. We use the tap water for all of those things, and I make hot tea with it twice a day (I should add though, that we’ve both had every vaccination known to man thanks to the military, and we have stomachs of iron too!). But it will be nice to return home and use tap water freely, to run a nice clear bath for my daughter instead of the beige-tinged stuff I see in the tub here.
Laundry – I won’t even get started!
What I keep coming back to tonight though is how thankful I am that my children have never known a day without the love of their family. The security that comes with that is irreplaceable. In America, we generally believe that children belong in families. Maybe we assume that everyone, everywhere believes the same thing. They do not. In the last few days, I’ve seen many of the faces of those deemed unworthy of families. Little girls with Down Syndrome – maybe seven or eight years old – who only need a smiling glance or wave to give them the courage to bolt over and hug us. Another sweet girl who wants desperately to come out of her groupa room and play with us during our visits with Isabella. Some caregivers allow her to and others do not. Our own girl who, with the exception of our first meeting on Friday, has been wheeled out to the visiting area on a flat, blue wooden cart that is too short to support her entire body, so her limp little legs hang off the bottom. Some days there is a pillow underneath her and some days there’s only a thin blanket between her head and the hard wood. On those days, Rob and I fold our scarves up and place them beneath her. This part is hard for me – I don’t like the wooden cart at all. It feels to me as if she is treated without dignity, even though I don’t necessarily think that’s the way the caregivers see it. More than likely they are just using the means they have available to wheel her out to us. Still, I wonder why can’t they just carry her downstairs to the room with the comfortable bed where they brought her for our first meeting? Or why can’t we carry her down there?
She is always thirsty, immediately asking for the juice and banana we bring her. When it is gone, she asks for more. I know why she is thirsty and this part is hard for me too. I’m not going to write about it because I don’t want this post to turn into a negative-sounding rant about the care she receives in the orphanage. The truth is that she is loved by several caregivers there and probably receives better treatment than many of the children do. But it is not enough – it is not the love of a family that I alluded to earlier. When I see her, and those little girls with Down Syndrome, and those teenagers who just want you to smile back at them, it makes me aware that my own children have never truly known what it is to be lonely, or uncomfortable, or thirsty. And I am so thankful for that.