Seeing Angels

Written by Kay on . Posted in Orphanage Flashbacks

When I first starting working in the orphanage in China, I was a little startled by the way the children would soothe themselves. Many times I would walk by an infant lying in a crib staring at what seemed to be nothing but completely enraptured by it. I’d say, “Maybe they are seeing angels.”

Later I noticed other actions that proved the children were unaccustomed to human interaction or consolation. The way a child would rock back and forth endlessly, or how they would be completely engrossed in the ragged strings that tied their bedding to the rails. Some would just lay there motionless, even when we’d attempt to interact with them—or they’d flinch if we tried to touch them.

Xiao Gou, my little heart who I became attached to, would come to our house for visits and one day I thought to give her a pen and paper. She sat for over an hour drawing the same tiny little circles all over her paper, over and over—almost as if she was in a trance. Later when she began to emerge from her shell, she graduated to writing Chinese characters of different words and little stick figures, but that original piece of paper was like a knife in my heart.

The many techniques children develop for their own self-preservation is interesting. However, what is amazing is how the children changed after they were introduced to a different form of human interaction than what they were accustomed to. Small gestures of affection like a touch on a cheek or the stroking of their hair were quickly something that they craved more of, once they experienced it. I still remember how little Jia Jia would pull my hand to her face and just hold it there quietly, as if she was drawing strength from my body to hers with that sweet gesture. It was enough for her to have that small touch, she didn’t ask for more.

For me as a volunteer who was only there a small part of their monotonous days, I struggled with the gift we were giving them opposed to taking it away for hours on end. Was it better for them to not know what they were missing? Or were our pitiful attempts of love what kept many of them going in their survival mode? For many years I would go to bed and attempt to block out visuals of the children performing their unique self-soothing actions, just so that I could continue on in my mission of trying to make a difference one child at a time.

So many people say to me, “I don’t see how you did it day after day. I just couldn’t do it.”

What I want to say in return is, “How could I not?”

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Comments (6)

  • Kim Kenward

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    So beautifully written. It breaks my heart and explains so much. Maybe that’s why I can’t stop kissing her at night. She just craves physical contact so much and I’m glad she’s my little snuggle buddy. Hugs!

    Reply

  • Mireille

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    Beautifully written Kay!! I also have worked in an orphanage in Pattaya, Thailand and noticed the same behavior. Even now working as a volunteer at a school for poor and disadvantaged South African children in a township I see the same… they want to be touched, held, hugged, get a moment of one of one time and these kids still have parents, or a grandparent that takes care of them, but their situations are dire. It too breaks my heart to see all these children in the world who are in need of just a simple thing, a loving home!!

    Reply

  • Chris

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    One child at a time…

    That is what it is all about.

    One child at a time…

    That is what I tell myself every night.

    I think what you did for these children is incredible.
    You gave them something to hope for…

    I agree with you…
    “How could I not?”
    Indeed!!!

    Reply

  • Chris

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    Your book is another I MUST read…in the craziness of life I forgot about it again till Jen mentioned it on Flyawayhome. Our daughter was 9 mo when we brought her home… her self soothing gesture was -waving her fingers back and forth in front of her eyes- like windshield wipers. It took weeks until one day we noticed the behavior was gone.
    We are working on paperwork for a boy who will be 10 at the end of Feb. I am gathering all the info I can possibly get my hands on…we think he was in foster care most of his life. We pray daily that the people that come into his life are good people…maybe someone like you.

    Reply

  • Sheri Hooven

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    My little sweetie is suffering from sensory integration disorder because of her life in the SWI, she is just so overwhelmed most days. Thank you for writing so beautifully about their plight, your book answered so many questions for me.

    Reply

  • Brian

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    Your words have stirred a fire in me….. Truly…. How could we not do more?

    We have been home only a few short months with our precious daughter….. our first child.

    I live each day to be her Father, Protector, Provider and Advocate…..

    She has changed me in ways that are unimaginable….. What did I do before her? How did I exist?

    Plans are being made to return and adopt a brother or sister for Maddie as I type these words….

    But, there is much work to do to provide love and care to all those that remain…. that is what I am dedicated to now and forever….

    Thank-you for your inspiration and may God Bless you…. Angels are real and are watching over them…. I have no doubt…. I can see them in my daughter’s eyes…..

    Reply

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