was my gut reaction when I saw him.
It's been a very long couple of months, lots of changes, new kids, long and extra long hours, 2 major construction projects going on. The last couple of days have been even busier with 40 people volunteering their time here on 2 separate missions.
My stress level was high.
After 2 days of playing games, learning, and overall having a grand time, the kids were high strung. They had trouble 'coming down' after all the attention and excitement; they're kids, they are happy kids.
Oh no, not today...
I like to think I'm a big kid at heart, but in reality, I'm too sensible. I try hard to not think about the consequences, the inevitable clean up that will have to follow, but I can't just jump in a pile of mud without thinking things through. That's what adults like me lack, the inability to stop forward thinking. It is not that I never let loose, but I do it consciously.
But what if you are abused. What if you had the ability to think things through, but were given random and sometimes violent consequences. What if acting like a kid brought laughter and smiles one day and the same situation the next day brought pain and suffering.
Oh no, not today...
So today was stressful, not in a bad way, but in a busy way.
Wayne and Dara went to check out the situation social services had informed us about. So I was left in charge of Wat Opot. A busy and demanding Wat Opot. I was pulled in every direction; kind of like every day, but amplified.
I thought a couple of times, "I'm good, I have things totally under control" as I searched for random requested items such as rope, nails, thin boards, hammer, shovel, smaller shovel, scissors, cotton...and I was spot on. Not to toot my own horn, but I am on the upper level of organization, the supervisor of my domain and no matter what anyone says about it, it's a necessary compulsion.
But really, today?
Things were going smoothly albeit stressfully, did I mention that? I was fine, I was in control of my emotions. Then Wayne brought him in, today.
I looked at this little boy. The little boy with scars on his body and scalp, swollen face, and fading bruises. I just looked at him as he came to me and took my hand, somehow sensing (or was it an innocent hoping), that things would be better now.
But they were not better for me. All the stress of the day came to a roaring head. I shook my head in disbelief, what the hell? How in the hell?
Today. Really? Today?
I am globally alive. I am aware of the atrocities of what a human can do to another human, even to a small one. BUT to actually see it live in front of me, to realize it will be (in a large aspect) my responsibility to care for him now. It is my job to make him feel safe and loved. To change his image of a caregiver.
Today, of all days, I was not prepared for him.
I blinked back tears as he walked over to me "Oh no, not today" as he choose to sit in my lap, as he laid his small hands on my knees. His trust in me pushed me to the brink of releasing all the stress from the day. I had the urge to weep uncontrollably, a primal emotion wanting to escape the depths of my soul.
Yes, it was today.
To counteract the emotions, I went into my safe zone, organization. I got him some clothes (as he only had the ones on his back) and that brought forth a smile. Our caregiver and our teacher came to coo over him, to tell him in his mother tongue that everything would be okay now, how he looked so handsome in his new clothes. I escaped to the storage room to get him a blanket, a pillow, a toothbrush and was taking deep breaths when I heard a commotion at the door.
There they were, a group of beautiful little kids, arms around him, telling him that 'mommy would get him everything he needed'. They oohed and ahhed at the mundane items I was giving him. His new 'surrogate brother', Sophal put his arm around him and led him to the television and requested "Harold and the Purple Crayon".
They watched Harold draw his imaginary adventures as I briefly touched him again - is he really here?- before I left the room. I went about the rest of the busy afternoon with the little guy constantly on my mind.
He found me at dinner time and I handed him a hardboiled egg and Wayne offered him some salt in a bowl. He cautiously picked at it, dipping a piece of the egg in the salt and putting it in his mouth. He then glanced at us smiling at him and he devored the thing! It won't take long until he puts more kilos on that small body.
The older kids came around to see their new little brother, giving him more love and encouragement and reassurance.
After dinner, he stayed by my side and we went to meet his night-time super amazing caregiver, Mr. Phal. Mr. Phal has been with Wat Opot for almost 10 years and he is everyone's sweet grandpa. At one point, I picked him up and cradled him like a baby (not Mr. Phal ;-) stating "oh look at the new little one" as I tickled him. He laughed, but a strange forced laugh. It was as if he remembered the concept of laughing but was unsure of how to do it.
It was then time for meditation and I led him to a place sitting amongst all the kids on the floor. Right before we got started, he got up from his seated position and came to me boldly on the stage (in front of everyone), sat by my side and put his hand on my knee. We have had dozens of children experience their first Wat Opot meditation and no child has ever reacted like this. Kids usually just go with the flow and maybe wonder what these crazy people are up to, but this little boy felt uncomfortable and changed his situation.
It gives me hope that his ability, his strength, to seek out comfort in a new and quite possibly confusing situation will help him deal with all that has happened to him. Hopefully his sense of self worth will shine through.
And you know, as I sit here tonight alone in my room, the tears just won't come. Are they stifled by pure exhaustion, or is it hope for the future and all the wonders it holds?
If not today, then when?