A story by C.R. Roberts.
This is what I learned one day in Nepal. One day, and three little stories.
– AMIR –
The home leader thinks Amir is 6. He isn’t sure. The boy was left by his parents at a hospital here in rural Nepal and delivered to a Kidstown-sponsored home by police. The home, they believed, would offer the boy the best chance of survival. Because of cancer contracted as an infant, Amir is without sight.
Thanks to a donor, Amir was provided with surgery and given prosthetic eyes in a Kathmandu hospital. He’s doing quite well, talking, negotiating a tactile world, climbing stairs, dancing, playing, eating unassisted, talking, talking a lot.
I’m standing on a second-floor balcony looking down at a group children lying on a carpet placed on the lawn. An older boy, a teenager, holds a stick in one hand and Amir’s hand in the other. He curls Amir’s tiny fingers around the stick to let the boy discover and test its texture and shape. Amir smiles. They both smile.
– DORINDA –
Dorinda was tossed from the roadside into an isolated field. Her umbilical cord was attached and the placenta was beginning to suffocate her. A farmer passing by saw movement and saved her life. Some might say this was a coincidence, that he found this abandoned child. Others would say it was the Grace of God. At the home, she has long since learned how to laugh as she plays with the other children.
– ALICIA –
The home leader says Alicia’s mother was bitten by a cobra and died. Her father was unwilling or unable to meet his responsibilities, and he discarded the child into a field where she was found first by ants and crows. She thus retains minor disfigurement. She was rescued and now lives at the home.
I’m not making this up and I know from hearing so many stories that many are worse. That’s why I’m here, to do just a very little bit to help, to wiggle my ears, do a few lame magic tricks and share the honest prayers that sail forth from young hearts. I recognize that the tragic stories I hear — and share — do not exist in a vacuum. They are not isolated to a single child, or three or three hundred children. It is beyond difficult to cast blame on a parent who chooses to cast off a child whether to brokers of exploitation or to a roadside field. We can easily judge the outcome while ignoring the dire cause of a decision to break a young life.
It’s tough to understand and hard to forgive.
Behind the pain, beyond the sadness, there is joy in simple things. We visit homes and together we share a devotion, prayers, songs of praise. We give little gifts, toys, beads, bracelets, candy, coloring books and such. We are given Nepalese peaked hats, or flowers, necklaces stitched with marigolds.
At one point at one of the homes, sitting in a circle, we play a game wherein I ask each child in turn to make the sound made by their favorite animal. Cats and dogs predominate, there’s a tiger and a bird, and when my turn came I wanted to imitate a hippopotamus but couldn’t recall the sound it makes. I did an elephant instead.
We close each visit with a group hug. It’s the Big Finish, everyone crushing together, yelling, making funny faces. It’s at this point we leave. Usually. Not this day, however. We’re seated in our hired Mahindra Scorpio and it won’t start. The children are all standing there and we’ve already said goodbye about 19 times. We listen to the engine grind. It’s awkward and I have the feeling that the arms of the children must be getting tired from all the waving.
The engine finally catches and we drive back to the city wearing our garlands of golden marigolds.
C.R. Roberts is a retired journalist from Tacoma, Washington. After studying at the University of Washington he moved to England, and upon his return owned a small business dealing in rare coins and stamps. Later, following a 30-year career as a columnist and business writer at the Tacoma News Tribune, he retired to a life of volunteerism and has made several trips with Kidstown to Romania, India and Nepal. He personally sponsors two young men in Romania.
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