Stories are powerful and provoking. They motivate us to love in action. We know that there are an overwhelming number of children living in poverty. We see pictures of their faces on TV and the internet and in church on ‘Sponsorship Sunday’. But when you go and meet the pictures, face to face, their stories come alive and grab onto parts of your heart. Their stories become a small part of yours. This is the story of Thomas, the boy with the broken head.
This month I got to be a preschool and kindergarten teacher. Preschool in the mornings and Kindergarten in the afternoons. Translation: loud, energetic children all day long. To be really honest, I wasn’t that excited about it. Coming into the month I was exhausted and sick, not sure how I was supposed to handle another 2 months of this draining lifestyle. But as it turned out, spending my days with these kids was so good for my soul that it didn’t take long for my heart to change.
Days spent with these little ones are fun – learning ABCs and numbers, celebrating a word sounded out or a toy shared with high fives and stickers, squealing with delight over “fun Friday” activities, and always big hugs at the end of every day.
On my first day helping in kindergarten I met Thomas. It was pretty much love at first sight. He’s 8 years old but developmentally about 3 or 4 years old. He loves puzzles and snack time and swinging and reading stories, but not math time. He has a beautiful smile of too big teeth. He’s cute, and he knows it.
Thomas came to this children’s home when he was about two years old. He showed up unexpectedly from a different orphanage. When they called to get his name and information the woman simply replied, “I don’t know, we just call him ‘boy with the broken head’…” It turns out that he’d been thrown from a second story window as an infant and when he was brought to the orphanage they weren’t sure he’d survive, so they didn’t bother with a name.
I’ve always wanted to adopt children. I don’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t think I’d adopt kids some day. This is a bit of strange desire for a little girl to have, but apparently I’ve always been a little strange. The only explanation I can think of is that this is something God created me for.
I’ve met tons of kids all over the world who are orphaned and in need of parents. I’ve held some of them in my arms, thinking, “Yeah, I could take this kid home.” But I’ve never really felt about any child the way I feel about this little boy.
I found myself considering what it would mean for me to adopt him…how my life would change. I would lose most of my free time and social life. I’d have to spend a lot of my income on caring for him. My thought life would turn from “What do I want?” to “What’s best for him?” I imagined quiet mornings of coffee and reading becoming chaotic adventures in breakfast messes, packing lunch and flying out the door late. I imagined evenings of free time to go running or have a dinner date transformed into evenings of homework and games and bath time and bedtime stories. I took into account the tiring emotional process that parents and children involved in adoption often go through. In many ways adopting this child would mean signing away my life as I know it. Am I willing to do that?
One night we sat in small group with all of the kids. He sat on my lap, mostly not paying attention. Julie was speaking about how when we make the choice to follow Jesus, we also make the choice to stop living for our own satisfaction. Thomas sat squirming in my lap, making occasional comments about irrelevant things. Suddenly he grabbed my hand and put it near his eyes. There were tears. “Are you crying?” I asked him, concerned. He smiled his huge goofy smile and nodded. “Why?” I asked, now confused. He shrugged his shoulders and whispered “Happy.”
Am I willing to give up life as I know it for this child I just met? Absolutely. Does this mean I’m moving to Cambodia? I don’t think so, although I’m willing if that’s where God leads. Maybe someday I’ll be reunited with this sweet boy. Maybe someday adoption laws will change and I’ll be able to take him home with me. Until then I’ll commit to praying for him with the intensity and dedication of a mother. Thomas’ story has touched mine forever. God began something new in my heart with him, and I can’t wait to see where it leads.