As most of you know my husband and I work at a camp for "underprivileged youth". Basically we provide a low cost camp experience for kids of all kinds. In every camp we have at the least a few foster children. Some times you can't tell, some times they act crazy, some times sad, some times they are the "life of the party." But, they all live with a lot of uncertainty in life.
During one particular camp I got to know an amazingly sweet, bright and thoughtful girl. I'll call her Shelby. Shelby is native. She was taken from her biological parents for some reason and lives with foster parents who've adopted 2 other sisters that come to our camp. This was Shelby's second year at camp and I immediately remembered her, though I didn't get to know her too well her first summer... almost like God planted that memory just for the purpose of this summer.
One day while I lead the craft time I saw that Shelby kept asking for my help or asking questions... help she really didn't need. So I sat and talked and "helped" her. We became friends. We'd wave at meal times or she'd run up and say hi or hug my children. She smiled a simple close mouthed smile with her big brown eyes and long dark hair.
Fast forward to the last day of camp... it is always hard. Everyone hates to say goodbye to campers, especially foster kids. For one, you are never sure foster kids will return to camp... they might change families or go back to their first family. We easily lose touch with them. Secondly, you worry about them... a childhood in foster care isn't ideal.
The last morning every one was leaving, getting picked up and saying goodbye. Shelby came up to me and said, "I have a stomach ache."
I said, "Do you think you drank enough water today?" She shrugged.
I thought, I think this is more than a stomach ache, so I asked the obvious question, "Are you sad you are leaving camp or saying good bye to your friends?
She said, "Maybe."
I said, "Well, sit down and I'll sit with you."
I got to thinking as I sat there, maybe I'm suppose to ask her more... so I did (not really in my comfort zone, mind you.)
So I asked, "What is it like at your house... do you feel ok about going home?"
She said, "My foster sisters are adopted," as if all the stomach ache and seeking me out was to tell me exactly that... like that was the whole problem, no beating around the bush for her.
I said, "How do you feel about them being adopted and not you?" Hesitantly I asked, "Do you want to be adopted too?"
She just looked at me with her brown eyes and nodded. Not a flippant nod... a serious heart aching nod.
Right there my heart broke. I couldn't force myself to ask any more... that said it all.
I lamely said, "I'll be praying you get adopted too..." with a weak smile and a lump in my throat. How I wanted to say something to make her heart not hurt any more, but not knowing what those words would be.
Seriously, what do you say to that? There isn't ANY thing good to say to a child that is worried about going home because they know it isn't really their home yet. There isn't any words that make that better.
In my memorial box I'm going to put a photo of Shelby. First to remember to pray for her personally. Then to remember that there are more than 127k kids like her in the US alone... and millions more around the world. And last, to remember how God helped me get outside myself and to listen to His voice yet again.
Do you know an "orphan"? If you don't maybe you should seek out meeting one. If you do, maybe they just want you to ask them a real question, so that they can give you a real answer.