Two Pieces of Pizza with Some Baby Powder on the Side

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KidsIt was hard to hide the smiles behind our hands as we watched their struggle to figure out what to do. During the prayer before the meal, eyes darted open to double check that the pizza was still in front of them; needing reassurance that it wasn’t all a dream. When they were finished the prayer, the adventure began as small little hands, grasping tin soup ladles, tried to figure out how to eat the piece of pizza in front of them. It was our last night with the kids before our Hero Holiday team headed back to Canada, and this was our way of saying thanks. Like any good party, we needed pizza – only this pizza had to come by taxi from an hour and a half away and now sat in front of 85 sets of eyes that were trying to figure out how to attack it. They had never seen it before. They had heard rumours of the existence of pizza, but none had tried it. Despite their frustration with figuring it out, there was an excited titter of giggles as they realized they could pick it up with their hands and not get in trouble. I silently breathed a sigh of relief, glad that the food choice had been a success.Baby Powder VictimOnce the pizza had been cleaned up, it was time for the real party to begin! One hundred of us sat in a circle on the floor of the dining hall as the music started. Around the circle, two bottles of baby powder began to change hands. The music blared and the bottles flew from hand to hand – and then it stopped. Our team looked at each other and wondered what was going on. One of the workers turned to us and said, “Whoever is holding the baby powder when the music stops, gets to pick someone to dump it on!” We laughed, not thinking he was telling the truth; and then we stopped laughing and gasped in shock as we got a cup of baby powder dumped on our heads by one of the children holding the bottle. Now it was on! Within moments, one hundred adults and children jumped up, started dancing and laughing and dumping baby powder on each other. The air was thick with the powder, and the floor was slick and slippery. All of us were covered form head to toe, laughing as we dodged little boys doing penguin dives across the floor in the powder. Over and over again, our team members would look at each other with incredulity as we exclaimed, “I can’t believe this is happening!” Little hands grasped ours, dancing and giggling and holding us tight, knowing that this was the beginning of our good-bye.Cole wearing baby powderAs the music faded, the children started to sing a song to us, as they hugged us one by one. With each new child that came forward to say thanks, I felt like my heart was going to burst with the intensity of emotion. Little arms clung to my legs as their owners had tears streaming down their faces, neither of us wanting to let go. This is what love can feel like; this is what hope can do. Each of these children opened up their hearts to us and let us into their world, willing to trust us despite what they have been through. Each of them had stories of abuse, exploitation and loss, and yet each of them were so full of life and passion that it seemed hard to envision anything else. Through their eyes, we glimpsed hope, as they told us of what they wanted to be when they grew up and  what they wanted to do for other kids that were caught in the same cycle that they had been rescued from. These relationships were rich and full of life.As gifts of necklaces and flowers were placed around our necks, one little girl clung to my hand and wouldn’t let go. Sobbing, she laid her head against my arm as I held her. I felt loss for her in that moment, as I wondered if she knew who her mother had been, and what she was feeling at that time.  As I looked up, her 18 year old sister came to stand beside me with her young baby on her hip. She smiled shyly at me as she handed me a parcel. It was a card to take home to Canada. She had painstakingly learned how to print some English words of goodbye and thanks, and my heart was touched by the effort. However, it was the closing line of the card that made me burst into simultaneous tears and laughter:“We will miss you and we love you. If it gets cold in Canada, wear a sweater.”In case you are wondering, I have adhered to her words of advice!Next summer, Hero Holiday will be returning to Northern Thailand to work again with these amazing kids and their staff. We would love to have you join us in August of 2010. For more information, check out www.heroholiday. com. Come prepared for a wild ride!

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 2nd, 2009