Chaotic bliss.


“I’m gonna kick your butt”. Maybe this wasn’t the best thing to say to a 14-year-old boy, but then again, maybe it was. He smiled when his friend translated my playful threat. He pointed to his bare and cracked foot, motioning an enthusiastic thumb up. “He says he’s better at soccer than you”. Tattered shoes scurried around the pavement. A deflated soccer ball flung through the air contrasting the graffiti filled walls behind it. Loud cheers echoed the orphanage as he dribbled the ball between my legs. I had been defeated.

The noise around me became muted as I saw his face. Tears. Heavy, sob-filled tears. He ran past me almost as quickly as the ball had flown past my face. He was probably 12 years old. Maybe he was crying over something silly as often children do. But he has no parents to hold him, to hug him, to wipe the tears off of his youthful cheek, to tell him everything is going to be okay.


His brown eyes were painted with wild determination. The light blue juba he wore isolated him from the rest of the crowd. His hands calmly embraced as if he were praying. What is your dream? I asked this young man. When I leave the orphanage, I want to be a teacher. I want to help people learn. I help kids here with their studies. His bright brown eyes lit up with excitement as he taught me everything he knew about America. He spoke with authority. Passion. Vigor. You’re going to be an amazing teacher. The last thing I said to him with the last glance we’ll probably ever exchange.


I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around as a toothless smile greeted me for the fourth time. It was Unis. This joyful little boy asked me about fourteen times to repeat his name. He so desperately wanted me to not forget. His eyes seemed to plead, remember me. I wonder if he ever feels truly known.


Two short hours. A time that I can’t take back, I can’t re-do, and I can’t stop thinking about. Why? For those two hours I think I experienced a more diverse array of emotions than even my proudest sob fest during a Tom Hanks rom-com. Joy. Excitement. Sadness. Privilege. And when I found myself bitter that we could only stay for hours then had to leave, I was reminded by our tour guide that it’s actually a wonderful experience for the kids. They gave me more than I could ever give them.

Despite my array of emotions, I found peace. They are not orphans. In the midst of the chaos, the small sweet voice of God whispered, “they’re mine”.


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