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Category Archives: Children Teach Us
“Mama, Mama.” Rosita shook me.
I turned over, moaned and looked at the clock. 5:00 a.m. What is she thinking? She chattered in Spanish. I smiled despite my reluctance to wake up so early. What fourteen-year-old girl wouldn’t be excited about a party planned in her honor?
Later, we bustled around the kitchen as we made final preparations. Rosita came over to the stove and gave me a playful grin. “Mama, why for me?”
I looked at her rosy cheeks. Joy filled my heart as I delighted in my new daughter. “We always have showers for new babies.”
“Me, baby?” she asked in her limited English.
I chuckled at her comment. “No, but it is like that because we just adopted you.”
Stan, my husband, met Rosita on a business trip, in an orphanage in Bogota, Colombia. After a childhood of neglect and severe abuse, at eleven years of age, she fled to the streets. She ate out of garbage cans to survive and slept in doorways under newspapers to fight off the chill at night.
Eventually, she heard about a Christian orphanage and found refuge there. When she saw Stan, she ran to her room and gave him a little needlepoint she made. When he looked in her eyes, something touched his heart. He heard the Lord say, “I want you to adopt her.”
Stan came home and shared Rosita’s story with me. I prayed about it and sensed God’s purpose in it, so I agreed. After fighting two years of red tape, we finalized the adoption in November and brought her to be with us in the U.S.A. before Christmas.
Now, Christmas decorations graced our house, filling it with cheer, making the shower even more festive. Spicy apple cider, cinnamon buns, and a variety of cookies filled the air with their delicious aromas. Upbeat music danced in the air, lifting our spirits. As the guests arrived, colorful gifts piled up under the Christmas tree. The chatter of friends greeting each other and catching up on news created a pleasant sense of energy and excitement.
Rosita kept running to the tree to gaze at the most recent deposit. As they accumulated, she unclasped and clasped her hands. Her voice had a nervous edge, “Mama, ‘mucho, mucho regalos’ (many, many gifts.) Twenty women crowded around in eager anticipation to see her reaction to their gifts. First, I shared with them a delicate colored poster Rosita made to express her appreciation.
A rough translation from Spanish shared her heart.
For: All of you with much affection.
I love you very much.
Thank you for all you have done for me.
May God bless you and give you much blessings.
Thank you all of you and I love you very much.
I will carry all of you in my heart wherever I go. Thank you. Smile.
Then Rosita opened the presents. She seemed confused by the abundance of gifts, so I handed them to her one at a time. She smiled with joy and expressed genuine gratitude for each gift. Clothes, a necklace, perfumed shower gel, lotion, gift certificates and much more delighted her young heart.
Three-fourths of the way through opening the gifts, she stopped, plunged her head into her lap and started sobbing. I panicked. I had no idea what upset her. I put my arms around her and tried to calm her. What is going on with her? I fumbled in my mind to try to find the few Spanish words I knew. My heartbeat faster. What am I going to do?
I sensed a nervous concern from the other women. I held Rosita for several minutes until she composed herself. Finally, one of the women who had been a missionary said, “I know Spanish. Maybe I can help.”
She questioned Rosita in Spanish and translated.
Through her tears, Rosita said. “I have never had so many gifts ever in my whole life. I am so grateful to you for giving me these things.” She paused and wiped the tears from her eyes, “When I was home and then on the streets, no one ever gave me a gift and now I have so many. I love you all and I will never forget you. I will never forget this day. Now I have my mama, my papa and my brother, and I love them so much. You are all special to me and I have you in my heart. I will never forget you. Thank you so much.”
I glanced around the room at my friends. Some women dabbed their eyes with tissue and others smiled at her with tears in their eyes. The awareness of what she had suffered and her sincere expressions of gratitude touched our hearts.
On Christmas Day, more gifts delighted her young heart. Later in the day, she came into the kitchen to find my husband and me. “Mama and Papa, I really love all the gifts. It is the first time I had gifts for Christmas, but the thing I appreciate the most is having a family.”
“He who gives to the poor lends to the Lord and He will reward you for what you have done.” Proverbs 19:17 (NIV)
“Stop, wait a minute. I want to help this woman,” I shouted to my family who walked ahead of me on the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil. We had taken the bus downtown to the courthouse to meet with the social workers.
We had adopted Alex from a severe poverty situation in Brazil when he was fifteen. After he grew up and graduated from a local university, we sat on the couch one day visiting. “Mom, I know I could stay here in the USA and buy a nice house and car. But what I want to do is to give my brother and sisters trapped in poverty, the same opportunities I had.”
After many years and attempts to bring them here, we were in Brazil to go through the formidable legal process. We decided to adopt Alex’s siblings, seventeen-year-old Michelle, thirteen-year-old Ingrid, and twelve-year-old Michael. We had finished our court appointment, and we were on the way to catch the bus to the apartment where we were staying.
I spotted a woman sitting on the dirty sidewalk with a tin can by her side. She had a baby cradled in her arms and a little boy and girl in dirty clothes playing beside her. My heart moved with deep compassion. Was it the look of sadness and despair in her eyes as she sought to get food to feed her little ones? I don’t know. I knew I had to help her, even if it was only for one meal that day.
I walked over to the nearest food stand to purchase some sandwiches and drinks. As I stood there, twelve-year-old Michael came up behind me and handed me a bill, the equivalent of a dollar. “Here mom,” he said quietly, “I want to help.”
Tears sprang to my eyes as I knew Michael didn’t have much himself. Yet he knew what it was like to be in that situation. He wanted to take the little he had to help someone in a worse condition.
As I walked away that day and for days after, I prayed that somehow God would make a way for her to get out of that situation.
As I reflect on this touching incident, those in need come to mind. Jesus gave it all, and He cares deeply about the poor. We honor Him when we give to them. We may not be able to do a lot, but that doesn’t have to stop us from giving the little we have.
“I miss my mommy!” She snuggled up to me to me on a bench at the pre-K playground.
“I put my arm around her as I empathized with her, “I understand you miss your mommy.”
“My Grandma came for lunch today,” she shared.
“Good, I’m glad you got to have lunch with your grandma.” I had an assignment as a substitute teacher at pre-K for the day. They invited the parents or grandparents to come have lunch with the children.
“I want to go home now. I miss my mommy.” She shared in a plaintive voice as she leaned her head against my shoulder.
I enjoy the contrast in my guest (substitute) teaching work. Yesterday I had challenging seventh-grade boys and today I had 4-year-olds at pre-K.
The little ones are a challenge to keep in a line to get down the hall but they are so cute and loving!
One of the things that fascinates me is they have not yet lost their creativity and imagination. They build with blocks and tear down their creations repeatedly to start over.
I participated in one little girl’s play acting today. When I questioned on her on a couple of points she looked up at me and commanded, “Pretend!” Her tone came across like “get with it!” 🙂