He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:2-3 (NIV)
This morning, the bus full of women could hardly contain their emotions as we wound our way around the mountains to San Juan and the Malnutrition Center. Some were afraid they might not be up to the task ahead; others were anxious to meet the children that they had prayed for for so long. Di and I were overcome by the chance to see the children to whom we had never been able to say good bye. Both of us got sick on the second to the last day of our time in Guatemala and on the day that we would have held the children for the last time, we had to stay back at the hotel. Now, nine months later, we longed to see them again. We each had a special child that we were eager to see. For Di, it was Dahlila and for me, Billy. Di was not even in the center for five minutes before she had located her girl. It took me a little longer before I found Billy, but he was occupied with getting dressed for the day so I didn’t get the hug I anticipated and had to settle for a smile. Billy came to the center so ill that he had to be fed with a dropper. When I was at the center in January, I was shocked to learn his age, almost four, because he was as small and as helpless as a toddler. He could barely walk and sat lethargically most of the day. He also had a rash and could not come out of his crib, so one day, when the other children were at play, I got to hold him, sing to him and pray for him as we I rocked him and we looked out the window of his room. I have cried many tears over Billy in the last few months, many of them in sorrow, but some in joy as a few weeks ago, he was finally moved up to the “big boys” room. Today, I was not assigned to work with his group, but during the day, whenever I had the chance, I went by the area where he was. I talked to him, smiled at him, but he was always preoccupied so I never got to interact with him like I had hoped. Then, almost at the end of the day, all the children came out to the front of the center to celebrate the birthday of one of our team members with a piñata. Billy sat on the front row, laughing with the rest. He even took his turn to swing at the piñata. Once it broke, the children all scattered to gather the candy, but Billy sat in the midst of the group without any. You see, due to the effects of malnutrition, Billy will always be developmentally delayed. He can run now and play, but he will always be “slower” than most. I pushed my way through the crowd of children, grabbing a lollypop on my way. I pulled Billy out of the throng and unwrapped the lollypop for him. He smiled at me and as I sat beside him, he backed into my lap and settled against me. At last! My time to cuddle with “my boy.” It was only for a few moments, but I soaked up the love he gave me, a pure stranger, who left a piece of her heart with him nine months ago. Billy will always have the mind of a child, but he reminds me that we are all to be like little children. To be loving and accepting. To be satisfied with simple things. Oh, how I long to be like Billy.