“Have you ever tasted pizza?” is what Romeo (almost 15) asked me the other night. The way he phrased it was so innocent I couldn’t help but be sad.
The main thing I have gathered from this place is that they rely on temporary happiness. I decided quickly last time that I want to be that temporary happiness.
There are a lot of people who come and go from these kids’ lives, so they are used to it. They have been conditioned to accept (white) people coming into their lives, and then disappearing, for any given amount of time. When you arrive, instead of asking how long you are saying, they ask, “When will you leave?” Perhaps this is so they can decide whether to get invested in you, or maybe it is just their reality that there is an end to everything they know.
Temporary happiness is being stolen away to go to the road to get a FanYogo and dance to the music they are playing at the food stands. Temporary happiness is getting your own bag of pure water and a sucker while you’re doing your homework. Temporary happiness is getting to use something you will never, ever own. Temporary happiness is a reading book or a piece of paper and crayons. Temporary happiness is a new soccer ball that will likely be stolen or destroyed by the end of the week. Temporary happiness is feeling special that someone sought you out to hold your hand while you leave school. Temporary happiness is having someone tell you your drawing is so nice, or that you are so smart, or that you have great talent, or that your dress is beautiful.
My favorite part of being here is when I go into the 2 rooms of the small girls and the small boys (about 12 years and younger) to say goodnight. I give them each a hug and sometimes a kiss on the cheek and tell them that I love them. Their faces light up like they just won the lottery. Some of them squeeze you so tight, and some of them just sit content in your embrace. Tonight in the girls room after this was done, one of them said to me, “God bless you, for everything you have done for us,” and I held back tears and just smiled.
I am here to treat these kids like they are worthy, and hopefully as they grow, they will remember those little moments when they felt like a million dollars.