Sunday, April 22, 2007

Useless

Yesterday was one of those days when it felt good to feel useless. Now usually I'm not a big fan of feeling like a disposable commodity; in fact, this is very rarely a welcome sensation. However, I couldn't help but feel joy welling up in me yesterday upon arriving at the orphanage. Most of the team is in Beijing this weekend, so I had borrowed a teammate's bike and ridden all the way out to the orphanage. OK, the italics in "all" seem to indicate I'm a fitness guru, which you all know is a lie. It really isn't that far...but it did feel great to stretch the legs. Anyways, after about 30 minutes of grueling pedaling I pulled into the orphanage. Parked outside the gate were two buses (now, I don't want you to get the wrong idea here...the buses should probably be called "minibuses", Siping is a small metropolis). The orphanage is sequestered way on the edge of nowhere, which means buses don't usually make it out there. And the fact that there were two of them waiting by the gate...well, it was unusual. However, their surprising presence wasn't more than a quick flicker of a thought in my mind--living in China I've gotten used to not asking "why?". Yet even though I did not ask that forbidden question, I got my answer just a few short minutes later. I walked down the hallway of the retirement home, out the back door and to the gate of the large pink castle (aka orphanage). Usually, when you walk through the gate a flood of kids comes running to hug you, pull on you, try to talk to you, laugh at your Chinese, etc. However, I walked through the gate several steps without a single greeting. It was at that moment that I noticed the large horde of university students running, jumping and playing with the kids. The students outnumbered the kids by far and were more than handling the task of entertaining them. Obviously I was not needed outside in the play area, so I headed upstairs to the toddlers. Once again I was confronted with crowds of students...perhaps about four per toddler. The large group of students, on their own initiative, had arranged for the two buses to bring them out to the orphanage. I must admit, my eyes got a little misty as I watched them play, cuddle, caress, and love on the kids. I was entirely useless...and ecstatic. As much as I love my weekly trips to love on these forgotten ones, there's nothing that brings me more joy than seeing them remembered by the future leaders of this country. These students are in an environment where they are pressured from all sides every day to excel and look out for themselves. Competition is fierce, so there is no one to trust for success except themselves. They are working so hard to earn a better life for themselves and their parents. Seeing a huge group of them lay aside the pressures and take time to care for the lower echelon of this society simply makes my heart burst. How many students does it take to change a diaper?

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