Friday, June 27, 2008
This is an essay I wrote recently. More dramatic than you will usually hear from me, but thought I'd share it here...
Having just returned home from Ethiopia, the weight of the experience has been heavy at times and at other times, light and just chalk full of all sorts of mixed emotions that boil down to hope, sadness, longing, and love. While we were there, along with meeting our adopted son for the first time, we visited several of the state run orphanages One institution struck me in particular – an older boys orphanage, where boys who have ‘aged out’ of the adoption system reside. There are young boys living there from the age of 14 and up – some smart, full of life and attending school: trying to turn a desperate situation into something positive and some who have lost hope.
Getahun, a young boy who falls into the optimistic category made a special impression on me, right away upon entering the grounds. He was one of two boys (out of 160) who was in the room they call the library, one of the nicer rooms at the facility with aqua blue walls and a few tables and chairs, studying his books – going against the grain of the day and tackling his schoolwork. As soon as we walked in the door, he approached us and greeted us politely. There was a group of about 8-10 of us Americans there invading his space, and he was kind to us all. He was serene and had such a peaceful spirit; it was almost astounding to see here.
As we walked around the campus, we spoke to Getahun about his aspirations, his dreams, and his knowledge of Ethiopia and the small town of Nazareth, where our son was born. What struck me more than his intelligence, mastery of the English language and kindness, was the deepness of his soul. I could feel the depth of his experience, his past in my core and yet it was a light, almost uplifting feeling that prevailed. This is the heavy/light phenomenon I grew familiar with while I was there.
As our trip to visit the boys grew to a close and we had to say goodbye to our new friends, I noticed Getahun’s shirt and I told him that I ‘liked it.’ Well the truth is I had noticed it right away when we met him – it was a bright, vibrant, turquoise color with some beautiful and colorful embroidery work on it. Quite an uplifting shirt for such a potentially dark situation. It looked so nice on him. So I let him know.
My husband I returned from Ethiopia just over a month ago, with our incredible son and a whole lot of change in perspective. So much about this trip blew us away…not the least of which was this orphanage and these boys – their ability to somehow make us feel hopeful as we stare at their stark circumstances. They gave us so much.
And then the most amazingly intense thing happened. A few days ago, a package arrived in the mail addressed to me from an adoptive family that had traveled after us and visited the boys at the same orphanage. It was sent from Getahun. And it was his shirt.
He gave me the shirt off his back, out of nowhere, so unexpected. I have a hard time putting this experience into words. I only know that it was a beautiful, simple and peaceful thing for him to have done – and that it’s not about the shirt. It's about the gift of friendship, the irony and the small worldness of it all. Getahun’s shirt represents his soul: bright and colorful, rich and glorious, passionate and peaceful, magical and light.