Not Enough Time

by

After a “Grand tour” of the property of the orphange, we were released to the masses of children. They were overwhelmingly excited to see us, like we were candles on a birthday cake and not people just like them.

“Shnoo smitick?” We asked in proud Durija.

“My name’s Youssef.” “My name’s Hamza.” “My name’s Mohammed.” They chimed back to us in English.

They grabbed our hands to pull us along to the next destination, the next name to hear, the next smile to exchange. The few girls in the place asked to braid our hair. All the boys asked us to play soccer and basketball. Feeling dizzy and over-stimulated by the sea of yearning faces around me, I went over and sank to a seat on an empty bench. Immediately four or five of the older boys hanging at the back of the swarms surrounding my friends broke off to come and sit down next to me.

“Hi!” I said, and now it was my turn for questions.

“How old are you?” “17” “21” “19” “20” they rounded off. I was surprised to hear that this orphanage let them stay as long as they needed to, unlike America where everyone in the system gets kicked out at age 18.

I asked what they wanted to be when they grew up.

“A teacher!” “A business man!” “A doctor!”, and sweetest of all, Hamza, who said “I don’t care what I do as long as I’m helping people.”

We talked about their hopes and dreams, likes and dislikes. I’ve seen up close and personal just how hard being in the American foster-care system can be. I can’t even imagine having to grow up in a place like Morocco where family is everything. No Ramadan with the family. No communal dishes. No affectionate kisses and hugs from their mother as they walk out the door. No fatherly jokes or wrestling. I grew up in a wonderful home with a family who loved me and I still feel like I missed out compared to Moroccan family bonding and loyalty and love.

So to be someone without a family in a culture so focused on family as it’s centerpiece must be so hard on these kids.

My heart went out to them as they so eagerly shared their lives with me, so eager to add someone new to their hodge-podge ‘family’.

“When are you leaving Meknes?” they asked.

“Will you be coming back tomorrow?”

They are the hope-filled questions of someone who still believes in Santa Claus, who still wishes on the North Star every night. Not of 20 year old young men with jobs and years of experience under their belts.

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To me it seemed cruel, as we were leaving, the kids singing and clapping, to join in like we are a part of their song. We came for one afternoon. It felt cruel and rude to get to know these kids and their dreams only to leave and never return.

As we sit on the bus Mo says to us “One afternoon playing with them does them so much good.”

But I feel like it doesn’t. My soul yearns to return to those kids, to invest in them, absorb them into my life. I didn’t want to leave them family-less in Morocco once more. And I could tell by the way they grabbed at my hands and stared at me with their beautiful, hopeful eyes that our afternoon with them was not nearly enough.

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