This story is being republished from earlier as part of our Best Of Bring Love In Summer 2014.
He is shy and clingy all at the same time, grabbing tight when you show him attention and yet struggles to maintain a sense of normal when someone is not actively loving on him.
Oh child, I can feel your pain, yet I know I have never known anything like it before.
Dawit is small, not that I would know for sure, when you ask his age he just says “Alawkem” (I don’t know) but to presume by the way he acts that he is around 7 or 8, but to look at his features they are more like that of a five year old.
Life has been tough on Dawit, I don’t even know his story yet, but his whole presence screams of it, the scars across his arms and legs, the tenseness in his shoulders, the way he makes eye contact longing to be loved, then receding into a different world when others get some of the much coveted attention.
God why? I want to ask as I place my hand on his back and he quickly pulls away, moving his body closer into the corner where the wall meets the floor. What did he do to deserve all that he has been through?
Just then marshet comes through the door with several men from the neighborhood trailing behind her, each of them carrying a un-human sized sack of grains back to the storage area. “Hi” I say to her and she flashes me a quick smile and gets to work dividing up the supplies for each family. “How are you?” I ask as I move into the doorway of the room she is working in.
“Good, we got many things today at the market” She says as she gestures to the several hundred pounds of food spread out before her on the ground.
“What do you know about Dawit?” I ask gesturing to the small boy curled up on the edge of the large room behind me.
“He is still new” She says, smiling a reassuring smile towards me. “Many of the kids come in like this, quiet and shy, and scared, and then they are fine after a few weeks, they want need to know that they are in a family, and often after a short time, they learn to trust.”
I look back at him his tiny frame slowly rising and falling with his measured breaths, his eyes turned down away from anyone, almost as if he is protecting his heart, keeping it in so that no one else can smash it, or break it again. It is a learned skill, not something that he wants, but something that he must do to survive.
“How long has he been here?”
“Just one week I think, that is why he is still here in the Intake Center, we are still setting up the home for his new family” She replies as her hands sink deeper into the large canvas bag, some of the kernels spill out onto the floor around her and she smiles. “It takes a while for all of them to be comfortable”
I walk back over to Dawit, bend down on my knees and place my arm on his tiny shoulder. “It’s going to be ok, you are home now Dawit, home forever.”
I feel another tiny body brush against my back and turn around on my knees to see who has come, it’s Kalkidan, a five year old girl who came in about a month ago, she is glowing from ear to ear and she wraps her arms around my neck and places the tiniest kiss ever on my cheek. “Your name is Levi” She says, practicing the newly acquired English that she has been learning in school. “My name is Kalkidan”
I could have just melted right there.
Yes, the transition is tough, leaving anywhere, even if it was not a family, even somewhere like an orphanage is tough, but oh the beauty once these kids are placed in families, the joy of seeing them thrive and learn to love, it’s like nothing I have ever experienced.
I have said this many times, but again it bears repeating, this picture, this new life that these kids are getting, it reminds me of the way that God rescues us from ourselves and sets us free, places us in His family, and loves us unconditionally. More often I respond like the little boy, curled up and staring at the baseboards, but He loves me any way, and he keep whispering into my ear “It’s going to be ok, you are home now Levi, home forever.”
I thank God for the change that has come to these kids lives, and for letting us be a part of it. He is good.
UPDATE: It has now been nearly two years since I wrote about Dawit, and words cannot describe the change in this boys life, he is alive, happy, and centered, what a blessing it is to see him grow from this place of fear and distrust to become the strong boy that he is now. I have a picture of him today that I want to share with you.