Friday, January 25, 2013

Communal living

When people hear we will be traveling to N’s orphanage twice, they immediately want to send toys or other items.

It is the nicest gesture.

But property is not something that kids living in institutions have.  Property is communal in institutions.   Any toys, clothing, food, love, it’s all shared. It goes in to the great pile and is doled out by those providing the care.  Some children are known to be “staff favorites” while others have behaviors which are deemed bothersome.  The former get more of the shared resources.   The later get less and sometimes even profound neglect.  In Bulgaria there is a cultural prejudice against those of Romani descent (N is Romani).  Prejudice often hits the most vulnerable first.  And living under the mercy of those providing the care these children are the most vulnerable.  Orphans are claimed by no one and they, in turn, get to claim nothing.  Not a toy, a special sweater, a loving touch, or the love and care that fits their needs most appropriately.

This knowledge makes me pause many times during the day. Like when I’m deciding which of my softest sweaters to wear (and which I have the option to avoid), or when my children squabble over a toy.  When I’m tending to the bodily needs of my children, each with his/her own timetable and proclivities.  Will N be complacent when she comes home or will her desires suddenly arise like a dormant animal neglected for too long?  Will she claim me like my youngest, Olive, does?  Will she climb up onto my lap when anyone else is in close proximity, even the dog?  I dearly hope for the latter.

Most are surprised by the joy radiated by those adopted from the most heinous neglect and abuse.  It is not shocking, to me, that they are joyful.  What shocks me is that they still cry, fuss, and make known their discontent.  I would think after years of neglect that their comfort seeking mechanisms would have been silenced forever.  I’m very happy to see that they haven’t.  They still turn toward the caregivers in their life, reaching out for comfort.  And every time they now receive it, they learn to claim that which is their birthright.  Love.  Common, self sacrificing, joyful, tender, most merciful, Christ covered love. 

It was always there.  But now it has been made known to them by the unique parents God fashioned just for them. 

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