Saturday, January 12, 2013

Story Telling // Of red sand beaches and little brown hands

"They weren't orphans, they were kids to me, and I just love kids."
// excerpt from my journal

We had spent a few hours at the children's home, playing and cuddling and laughing. I was learning a few names and memorizing faces. After dinner Raj packed us all, team and children and staff, up into two vehicles and we drove to the beach.

I didn't take much note of which child sat by me on the way there, I was still learning who they each were. When we arrived, we parked on the side of the road, trash was littered all over the sand by the curb and there was a man selling ice cream from a cart. Some of the children needed to use a bathroom so Colleen took them one at a time out of the bus and helped them go in the bushes -- there aren't public restrooms available out there.

I hadn't been by the ocean in years. I don't think it has ever looked so beautiful to me than it did there in India. The hazy, humid sky was all yellow as the sun slipped away through it. The wonderful red sand getting caked onto our shoes. The foamy waves crashing again and again, a never-ending toy for the children to play with.

I had fully intended to hang back from the water, avoid getting wet and just take in the beauty of where we were... to allow it to sink in that I was finally in India, with children, and to delight in the journey that the Lord had taken me on to get me here. The team had got their toes wet and returned to a dry part of the beach to play soccer and build sand castles. But the children in their excitement were following the waves back out, not realizing that the water was going to come right back up with great force. 

My motherly heart compelled me to stay close to them, holding their hands so the under-tow wouldn't knock them down, and voicing words of warning when the waves began to roll back up to the beach. The boys tried to jump over the waves over and over again. When that got old they found a plastic toy to let the waves pull over the beach as it came and went. It didn't take many times of that before the toy was sucked away with the tide for good. 

Meena had worn her high-heeled sandals down to the water and the tide kept pulling them off. Most times the sandal just got sunk into the sand and was easily retrieved but one time it got pulled away with the receding water. Making sure that the girls stayed far enough back, I scurried after it, catching it up just as another wave crashed up on the shore soaking me up to the knees. The next few waves had a really strong pull as they washed away and Ruthie's footing became unstable. With Meena in one hand, keeping her balanced, I tried to keep Ruthie upright with the other but she ended up on her rear in the water just as the wave disappeared and, whether out of sadness for being wet or fear from being knocked down, Ruthie returned to the rest of the group crying. My heart ached, I so desired to comfort her, dry her off, help her to know how secure she was and that I never would have let the wave pull her away -- ever.

I told the rest of the children it was time to stop playing in the water. Drawing back from the waves I snapped a few photos. The oldest boy, David, caught my eye and, delighted to have an observer, wrote his name and drew an enormous heart around it in the sand. Encouraging his masterful artwork with smiles and enthusiasm, I watched the waves come up and wash away part of his drawing. "Oh no!" I said in a tone that said we had a funny problem on our hands. More than happy to solve the problem the wave had created, David dove straight back into his work. His heart ever happy, no problem too daunting, not a hint of disappointment, only growing joy, as the cycle continued: draw, be praised by "big sister", wave comes, have "big sister" show concern, re-draw.

Evening was coming on, as much I would have liked to have denied it, and it was time to pack up and head back to the home. Not rushing, hanging back as long as we could to enjoy the setting sun and each other's company, eventually the toys and children were collected and guided back to the vans. As I was talking with Brittany (one of my team mates) Glory came up to me, lifting her arms up, asking to be held.

Remaining fully present in the conversation I was having but turning my heart toward the little darling I gladly picked her up and snuggled her. I could tell she was tired, with her head resting on my shoulder and her arm around my neck, her little body growing heavier in my arms the more she relaxed. As Britt and I wrapped up our chat Glory had regained a last little bit of perkiness.

She hammed it up for the camera (sweet Ranuka squeezed in on some more love and attention from the "big sisters" too), never asked to get down from my arms, instead held on tighter as we walked back to the vans. With my soaking wet pants clinging heavily to my legs and my sandals kicking up tons of sand onto them with every step I was uncomfortable, really ready to change into my PJs for the night. Glory was falling asleep in my arms and it felt like she got heavier with each step. Nothing in me wanted to put her down though --- nothing. I scaled the sand dunes with my precious bundle and arrived back at the vans very sweaty and sandy and tired and oh, so content.

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