Thursday, November 01, 2007

Dinner with the Kids

Before we left Kaifeng, we took all of the older kids sponsored by our education program out to dinner. It was a night that I will never forget. We asked each of the children to tell us one thing they loved to do, and they stood up one by one, thinking hard before answering. Most of the boys answered quickly..."I like soccer". "I like basketball". One beautiful young girl answered shyly that she liked reading the best.

The waiters began bringing out the food, and it was so much fun to watch the kids dig in. There were small moments that night that again will always be a part of my mind. Normally at Chinese banquets there are toasts made, so we asked for all the kids to have orange juice in their toasting glasses. I watched as the waiter poured the juice into the long stemmed glass in front of one girl who was ten. She ran her fingers over the beautiful glass slowly, so happy to be part of the festivities. At one point the oldest boy there, 15 years old, came over to my chair to raise a toast to us. I know he was very nervous...but he gave the toast in English on behalf of all the kids. It was a great moment.

We were all smiling watching the kids wait for each new dish as they placed it on the huge lazy susan. At one point they brought out enormous coconut shrimp on skewers, and one little boy who was sitting near me was trying patiently to wait his turn as it made its way around the table. It just kept stopping, however, as people took more, and I could tell in his head he was thinking, "closer....closer....closer". So close and yet so far! Finally the dish was right in front of him and he was able to grab one of the tasty treats.

At the end of the dinner, the kids told us that they wanted to sing to us. I went up to stand with them and the entire group began to sing "Mama Hao" to us (Good Mother). It is a lullaby song that all children in China learn at some point.

Shi shang zhi you mama hao
You ma de hai zi xiang ge bao.

Tou jin mama de huai bao
Xin fu xiang bu liao.
Shi shang zhi you mama hao
Mei ma de hai zi xiang ge cao
Li kai mama de huai bao
Xin fu na li zhao.

Only Mama is the best in all the world
With a mama, you have the most valued treasure.
Jump into mama’s heart and
You have endless happiness.
Only Mama is the best in all the world
Without a mama you are like a piece of grass,
Away from mama's heart,
Where will you find happiness?

As they sang the song, each child came over to me to give me a hug. I was so surprised that the first one to come forward was the 15 year old boy and he hugged me tightly just as my own sons do. One by one the kids came forward for their hug, and with each one I held on tightly and told them how wonderful they were. Some of the children hugged me so hard, and I could feel them touching my hair memorizing the moment as much as I was.

Normally I do not cry in China. Normally I try my best to keep it all together until I get home. But listening to the children sing a song about the beauty of having a mom caused my heart to break open, and nothing I could have done would have stopped my tears. I would give anything for there never to be another child in the world who has to grow up having the label of "orphan". Each of the children that night were so amazing and wonderful and so deserving of being loved, and I would have brought each of them home if it was as simple as saying "come with me".

"Away from a mama's heart...where will you find happiness?"

I left Kaifeng knowing we have to do everything possible to help each of them find just that.