During trip week, I love hearing from proud host families about how their child is blossoming with the individual attention they’re being given. I received the first such report Saturday night at a bonfire hosted by the family who initially planned to host Anatoly. The host mom of Losha hurried up to me immediately after I arrived and enthused about how he had spent the day. The family was at a soccer game when Losha looked at her and said in English, “I want to play soccer.” When she replied, “You can play later,” he persisted, “I want to play soccer now!” She decided to get him a uniform, after which he proceeded to score his team’s only goal. I exulted when I saw she was as proud as any mother could be in relating the story. Last night at the cultural program the kids put on for the host families and the community, Losha was asked during the question and answer session about how he felt about scoring his team’s one goal. His answer was that he scores goals all the time in Russia so this was just an ordinary goal!
Sunday, Anatoly achieved a childhood milestone when he learned to ride a bike. Most American children would take parental assistance for granted, but Anatoly had an unusual helper for an orphan: his host dad. So smitten was he with this new experience that he ran outside to his bike while still in his pajamas Monday morning. He’s still a bit wobbly, but with more help and guidance from his host family, Anatoly can learn to be steady and sure.
At last night’s program, the children performed so sweetly. I wondered if they knew how their love of their music touched, or how their bravery in reciting a poem surprised, or how the honesty in their answers charmed. While I could not understand the songs’ words, the children sang like they meant them. Ten-year-old Dima recited two poems but stumbled slightly on a third. I hoped he knew it didn’t matter; the audience loved him anyway. Fourteen-year-old Tatyana said that when she returned to her orphanage, she would tell her brother and sister of how well her host family took care of her. I hoped she would be able to tell them that she’d met a family, and they’d have to be patient just a little while longer while they waited for Mom and Dad to come.
The host families shared their love of their children with the audience pictorially. An immensely poignant montage of photos from the week’s events was compiled by a young adult Korean adoptee. She’d flown all the way from Rhode Island because she wanted to speak to the audience about how her own adoption had blessed her. From all the sniffling I heard, I imagined there was not a dry eye in the house, except among the children who found humor in our Cyrillic renderings of their names.
At the end of the evening, a 600-cookie reception was the backdrop for my Guatemalan daughter to play “Heart and Soul” with a lady who fell in love that night. While she played the duet with my daughter, a photo taken of the moment showed that her heart had really been given to a young orphan boy, at whom she looked with smiling eyes and loving face. I’d like to think it was the smile of a mother, and I wondered if that was something he’d seen before. Time will tell the story, but for now, I have hope. Maybe he does, too.