The View from Here
I wonder if what is purple to me is the same color combination through your eyes? I wonder if the tones and sounds that I hear are the same for you? I wonder if I would have the same sense of justice if I had been born somewhere else, had fewer opportunities, and didn’t have as many people believing in me? What if my intellectual capacity was diminished or my cognitive abilities were restricted – would I still feel as motivated to reach out to the world? Would I give in to discouragement? Would I give up completely?Unless you have walked in someone else’s shoes, it is impossible to completely understand them. Although we are unable to ever completely see things through their life lens, it never hurts to try. In fact, it is sometimes the best gift we could give them and ourselves.We first met Ricky in the summer of 2006. He was about 12 years old. At least, that is what the workers at the orphanage guessed to be his age; no one could be sure as he just showed up on their doorstep one day, abandoned by all family and provision. He was tiny. Small, bony limbs, atrophied beyond use caused him to remain curled up in a little ball in an oversized crib. His crib was by the open door of the one room orphanage. One of 60 children in that small place, his life was one of endless monotony. Confined to that bed, he rarely left that location for anything. He was fed, changed, and bathed there.From his crib, the sun was visible – barely. To see it, he had to look through the open door over his left shoulder, with his neck craned at an awkward angle. I stood beside his crib that day, watching as he strained to see the sunlight. I felt helpless, angry, guilty, overwhelmed by all the emotions that assaulted my sense of justice and equality. I listened, tears running down my face, as he mumbled and groaned to himself, lost in the unknown world of his mind. What was he seeing from that perspective? Did he see life as I saw it? Did he see himself as being different, or did he embrace his life and give thanks for every breath like I do? I wanted so much to reach him in that place in his mind. I couldn’t go there, but maybe, somehow I could touch his heart with love.I began to stroke his cheek and sing to him, as I had seen so many of our Hero Holiday team members do when they stood over the other kids in the room. Slowly, the more I sang, the quieter he became. I began to whisper to him words of love, telling him how precious he was and how much he meant to the world. And then the miracle happened…Ricky stopped rocking and groaning, and for one brief moment, his liquid brown eyes turned to my face. His hand that I thought would be unable to do anything reached up to my cheek and touched it. And then he smiled. Not a patronizing smile to make me feel better about myself or to get me to stop. It was a genuine smile, full of life and trust. It was a smile that made me want to stay there forever, allowing myself to be lost in the innocence of it.I don’t know what Ricky sees when he looks up from that crib, but I know what we see when we look at him: precious, irreplaceable life. Ricky is one of over 200 million children around the world. One in every 10 children born in the world are born with a disability, and of those, 80 % are born in the developing world. Many of them are not as severely disabled as Ricky, but many are not as fortunate, either. In this orphanage, Ricky is fed, clothed, cleaned and cared for. He is known by name and treated with respect. Many of the children in the world’s disabled population are forgotten, shamed, abused, and exploited. They are the extremely vulnerable being made more vulnerable each day.In the home that Ricky is in, Hero Holiday has helped to build and paint a new building for the children. This new building has many rooms, clean floors, and colorful murals on the walls to make it cheery and accepting. Each one of those kids needs to be surrounded by security and inspiration, just like you and me. On each of our Hero Holiday trips, we endeavor to empower participants to realize what a gift their life is and how much their compassion can help to change lives.For all the Ricky’s of the world that we will each, thank you. Thanks for your time, your passion, and your support. You are a part of his story.