“Every time someone says something mean to you, you should always respond with kindness,” he commented after some playful banter while we were working on a puzzle.
He continued, “If someone tells you you’re stupid, tell them they’re smart. If someone tells you you’re ugly, tell them they’re beautiful. My stepmom taught me that.”
Impressive, I thought. “Where’s your stepmom now?” I asked.
“Well, she’s not really my stepmom. She’s just a lady I lived with who I called my stepmom.”
And then his story tumbled out.
When he was two years old, his mom gave him to a woman because she couldn’t care for him. He has no idea who she is, who his dad is, if he has siblings…
At 11, this woman died, and he went to live with her daughter.
But the daughter found a woman in a nearby town who had two grown sons and was lonely. So, he was sent to live with her. This is his madrastra (stepmom).
A few years later, he was walking alone at night and was picked up by the police. I don’t know if he mentioned that he was living with a nice lady who was not his family, or if this is always police protocol for ‘hooligans’ roaming the street in the dark, but he was brought to Neuva Esperanza. He shook his head as he talked about how he cried for two weeks. He couldn’t believe that he had ended up in a children’s home. And what a terrible children’s home this was.
After two weeks, he was sent to Proniño, where he has been thriving for the past few years.
He finished his story, looked up, and said, “How strange my life has been, right?”
I asked him if his madrastra knows where he is and he shrugged as though that detail was unimportant and said no. The gears in my mind immediately started turning as I was figuring out how to find this woman and let her know he wasn’t killed in an accident or that he didn’t disappear on his way to the States. But then he said,
“It’s been three years. I’m sure she’s forgotten about me by now.”
I was speechless. I could understand if he had said that she wouldn’t want him back, or that she probably has learned to go on with her life, but forget? As in, he never even made into her long term memory? What must if feel like to think of yourself as so insignificant? I think it made me even more sad to see how complacent he felt about being forgotten. Like being forgotten was a given.
But this child was created to be loved. His level of education, way of interacting with the other boys and respect for authority shows that the hands that he has been passed through have done a pretty good job of teaching and caring for him, but what about his little soul? What about making sure he knows that he matters?
Thankfully, he has a future. He will be able to form his own family through a wife and children or through developing a supportive community. And this might be able to make up for what he has missed out on in his own childhood. This gives me hope for him. But will he be able to form healthy, loving and long-term bonds with others if he feels so unlovable? This gives me a passion and drive to speak things into his life that he has either never heard, or never believed. Words to let him know that he matters.
Sometimes I wonder, really, what am I doing here? If this child could one day face the world and say with confidence that he knows he has much to offer, and if I have had even a small part in making that happen, then I will have my answer.
* I always try to get the older kids’ permission before blogging about them by name. I didn’t ask the boy in the story so please forgive the vague pronouns and lack of pictures!