She is eleven years old.
She’s beautiful. Dark skin. Deep, brown eyes. Hair like mocha. Petite, intelligent. She has dreams of becoming a cosmetologist. She’s loving, protective, a little quiet. Likes to dance. She takes everything in around her but doesn’t let it all out.
She’s eleven but life has demanded she grow up sooner. She’s been her own mother. She’s been the mom of her siblings. She’s been forcefully awakened in ways eleven year olds should never be. She’s a woman now.
And she doesn’t know what to do. She mothers most of the time, and when she has time to herself she crushes on an older boy. All of her girl friends are older than she is. She just may do anything to be seen right now.
She’s there inside but she’s broken. She watched the woman she calls mother choose men over her. The mother who was supposed to nurture her, to protect her, to value her, to prepare her didn’t choose her or the ones she loves. And now here she is battling between becoming the person her mother never was and between the only mother she ever knew. Who will she become?
She came with her siblings to New Hope last spring.
It’s our aim within this community to not only give these children a secure and loving environment to grow up in, but also to give them back a piece of their childhood. We want to offer to them pieces to fill in the gaps where their young lives have been left empty. We want to give them new memories to replace ones that have torn them apart.
Some of these kids are so eager to share their love. All you have to do it sit down, and they crawl onto your lap. They will fall asleep in your arms even if they barely know you. But there are some who don’t trust easily. They watch you quietly from the corner. They might get involved, or do a little dance with you, but you’re still a stranger to them. They find you interesting but haven’t let you into their heart yet.
But – oh! – when they do it is worth more than any thing you’ve ever placed value in.
Little by little She is beginning to open up to Bear and I. Tonight she asked me to sit by her, so I sat with her and her older friends during devotions. Three times she laid her head on my shoulder and rested there, secure in knowing who I am becoming to her. She reached for my hand a couple times like a child would reach for their mother while we sat there. You might know the feeling: your daughter or son is growing up. They’re preoccupied with their friends, and maybe you’re a little embarrassing to be around. But then they do that one thing, unashamedly, because you are the one who has always been there, and they can’t help but love you. And in a moment they become your baby again – even though they always were. That’s what this was like.
Later in the evening we danced it out. Typically we dance it out actually, but tonight was different. I spun her around; Aaron spun her around and around and around. We did silly dance moves with her and her younger siblings, and moreso than dancing, this girl played. She involved herself more than usual. She even budged in a couple times wanting to go first. She had fun. Eleven year old fun. Tonight it was obvious that somewhere in her sweet hurried-along eleven year old self she said, “I don’t have to be Mom tonight.”
And this is what beauty looks like, friends.
This is the kind of thing you leave a promising career behind for.
This is what makes all of the difficult days living overseas worth staying for.
This is the kind of beauty I hope we can all experience at least once in our lives.