I have just recently returned from a trip to Honduras where I visited the orphanage I lived and worked at for 3 years. This was my first time back to the orphanage in over a year and a half. I could hardly hold back the tears upon arrival as I embraced the young girls that used to call me "Mama China."
I had wondered what it would be like to see the children and teenagers that I worked with after being away for so long. I think that "bittersweet" is the word that best describes how I felt as I realized that little Caterin's front teeth are finally growing in, that Angie can now tie her shoes all on her own, and that Banesa can recite the multiplication tables with confident accuracy. These sweet girls are growing up, and I am so proud of them.
I was accompanied by my family during this 9-day trip, and we enjoyed doing special activities with the children - painting fingernails, baking cupcakes, playing soccer, and throwing a "princess party." When I was a staff member at the orphanage, I would also fundraise and plan special events or "field-trips" for the girls when I was able. With the help of many others, I was able to take the girls to a children's museum in the capital city, Tegucigalpa, for example.
As the house I cared for during my time there was for girls ages 4-8, I guess I hadn't expected the children to remember very much of our time together. Although I hold so many memories with them close to my heart, I figured that because they are young, they wouldn't remember as much. If anything, I thought, it would be the big moments like a visit to Chiminike children's musuem that would stick out in their minds. But I was so wrong.
As I sat in the yard with the girls one day, soaking in the sun and playing sing-song games that they had invented, one of them told me she remembered when I was their "encaragada" (house mother). This sparked conversation by the other children sitting nearby, and they all got excited talking about their favorite memories from our time together. I was surprised that nearly all of the girls had the same "favorite" memory - but it wasn't a visit to Chiminike, or the stockings I gave them on Christmas morning, or the parties with candy-filled treat bags that we had.
No, what nearly all of the girls named as their favorite memory was the evenings when I would bathe them and then read them bedtime stories in their pajamas. Something so normal, so everyday. And for some reason, that's what stuck out to them from the entire 3 years I spent at Emmanuel. How humbling. In a country so full of extreme poverty, you'd think that these girls would most remember something "big." But instead, it was the little, everyday, relational things that were important to them.
So often in our jobs and lives, I think that we tend to strive for big accomplishments - something visible, something that people will thank us for or seem obviously great and worthy of recognition. But maybe the truly great things in life are not so obvious - maybe it's the everyday dedication that we put into relationships that will make a lasting impact on the world.
"The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them."
- Paulo Coelho
I love Jesus and what He has to teach me while I wander around the planet. My other favorite things include: foreign languages, yoga, hiking,
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