Monday, July 8, 2013

They Do This For the Least of These

Her name is Dulce. That word means "sweet."
Children's Haven International has a wall of their Texas office covered with pictures of the 53 youngsters, ranging from 18 months to college age, who live in the homes CHI maintains in Reynosa, Mexico. The great majority of these children are not orphans; they are kids who have been abandoned, or whose caretakers (parents, grandparents, other relatives) are unable to care for them for reasons ranging from poverty to addiction to imprisonment. We gathered in front of the wall to ask God's favor on our efforts.

Just before we prayed I looked through the pictures and a five-year-old girl practically jumped off the wall and into my arms. She was big-eyed and laughing, her grin a wide jumble of half-grown teeth and dimples. Her name was Dulce.

Dulce and her older sisters, Fabiola and Belinda, have lived at Children's Haven for a year now. Her father is not part of the family; her mother is poorly educated and barely able to care for herself, much less three growing daughters. At Children's Haven the girls live in family groups with houseparents they call "Tio" and "Tia."

Still, when we met Dulce as we made our initial tour of the facility, she was cuddled in her biological mother's arms. It was visiting time on Sunday afternoon, and Mama was checking on her girls.  Dulce's face was the portrait of sadness as she leaned against her mother's chest. She wasn't crying, but her eyes brimmed with tears and her mouth was turned down, teeth clenched against sobs.

"She wants to go with me," her mother said. "Look how sad she is?"

Betsy, the director of Children's Haven, was gentle but firm.

"She's sad just for a moment, but look how well she's doing. She's eating well, she's doing great in school, she loves her Tios and her friends here. We love her, too."

And when visiting time was over, her Tia scooped her up in a hug, and within moments Dulce was all smiles again.

During the week I found myself gravitating to Dulce. She is a typical little girl, and most of the time she was giggling and shrieking with laughter and grabbing my hand. "Amiga! Amiga!" she called to me.

But when she's sad, her face may be the most heartbreaking sight I have ever seen. She doesn't make a sound. She clenches her teeth and holds it in when she doesn't get to make two picture frames or when she is left behind in a game. But those eyes, swimming in unshed tears. They're a reminder of days when open sobs could have resulted in punishment.

Here she won't shed tears because she is hungry or in danger or living in the streets. She will have the only tears a little girl should know--tears of momentary disappointment, kissed away by loving adults.

To Be Continued....
This is not an official statement from Children's Haven. If I've made mistakes in information, they're my own, and not those of CHI. However, I asked permission before writing any posts or publishing any pictures of their residents and activities.

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