There are days in life that you will never forget. Can you picture one now? I have several days that I could recreate down to the most intricate detail. Today was one of those days. Let me show you a glimpse if you have a moment.
Every memory is shaded by memories past. I am never a blank canvas, but rather I have a series of templates that I paint my experiences on that are based on how I felt in similar situations. Today I used a pallet that I have not held for some 8 years. It was eerie how similar this day felt. I am convinced that I am living the same day a second time, simply a bit older and capable even of deeper feeling. Time has an effect on me like still waters.
We took a van ride out of the city, riding for an hour and a half out of Guangzhou, population 12.78 million, to a smaller suburb called Foshong, population 5.79 million. My mind shifted like a movie that is hard to follow… my eyes would see the passing skyscrapers and densely populated apartment complexes, and then as if a glaze coated my eyes I would see the echo of passing white birch trees.
Memory participated in a stalemate with reality today I as experienced dual journeys: a drive to an orphanage in Orkhevo-Zuevo, Russia, and a trip to an orphanage outside of Guangzhou, China. How can it be that time is no barrier? Today I experienced the emotions of both events simultaneously.
The air was humid and the clouds seemed to hug the earth as the scenery sped by. The hum of the tires seemed to match the bounce of the seat. My stomach was a bit too full from over-eating at breakfast since the day had no allowance for lunch. A few pieces of fruit and fresh-baked rolls were stowed away in a backpack to keep up my energy. I would force a few bits down, ignoring the nausea in my gut. Somehow I had again picked up a headcold and had that typical over-dryness in my mouth that accompanies decongestant allergy medicine. I felt overpowered by the strong memories of the past, and knew that I was about to get my psyche sucker-punched by what was to come next.
I wondered to myself, why is it that the most incredible beauty in life is often amid the most desperate suffering? If there is anything to eastern religion… I have to admit I find an honesty to the concept of yin and yang. Life is never so visible as when against the backdrop of death. A smile is visible for eternity when it is beamed among fear.
Have you ever seen artwork that hangs on the walls of an orphanage? It is created by the hands of the abandoned… the minds of the chronically ill… looked at by those who suffer, those who hope beyond all rationality, and those who labor against the odds.
Have you looked into a room full of faces with arms outstretched? I can tell you how it is not an amazing thing to reach down and save only one. It is more like getting a single breath of air while trapped underwater. It is simply enough… just enough, to get you through. People have told me that we do a good thing. They are wrong. We simply do the least that we can. We try to love and share life.
There are things in this world that can irrevocably alter you… if you allow them to.
The more I see, the more I understand how totally unimportant I am. The more I am sickened by what I have, and the more I want to become more than I am. The greatest wealth I have ever seen in this world… I have seen hidden in the depth of the eyes of those who care for the least among us. You should see the immenseness in the eyes of the nannies at these orphanages… these two that I visited today, one present and one past.
We were led to the incubator that held Sterling for 3 months after she was brought to the caregivers at our orphanage. It held another impossibly small human. Kellie and I stood there… unable to move… as we looked at the premature, abandoned baby in that clear box, and we knew that the girl we held in our arms was saved by this place and these people. We walked into the adjoining room and saw the little faces that smiled up at us from row upon row of cribs… and felt the power of the expectation in their gaze. They longed to be loved.
The care given here was extraordinary. When we walked through the door to visit, Sterling was thrilled to see her favorite nannies! She reached out for them and giggled. And after a few minutes, she gave us an incredible gift as she looked back and reached for her mom. The nannies beamed as tears formed in our eyes… our baby.
So… how do I sum up a day like today? How can I express for you the intense, overwhelming emotion of a day like this that spills over and even affects how I feel on a physical level? I am at the same time immeasurably happy beyond belief, and crushed beneath the gravity of the moment.
We have been blessed to have multiple days like today… and they have radically shaped who we have become. This is why we sell all that we have and walk away from everything that is comfortable, safe, known, and secure.
I can tell you with complete sincerity that once again today… I have looked God directly in the eyes.
There is nothing else that matters.