Sleeping downstairs with the girls now means that every so often I wake up to hear sniffling coming from somewhere in the darkness of the dormitory. I can feel how long I’ve been in the hogar because I can usually recognize the girls just by the sound of their crying. Last night the youngest in the dorm, Melody (4), was sniffling from the corner of the room. When I laid my hand on her cheek and asked “are you crying, little Melody?” she threw her arms out and buried her face against me.
Rocking her back to sleep, murmuring and humming to her as her tears dry and her breathing slows to the steady, rhythmic sighing we adults often lay awake craving, is one of the simplest but most important parts of my day. My dorm is full of girls who were beaten, abused, abandoned, rejected or forgotten. Tiptoeing past their beds at night, or stopping them in the hall to ask about their drooping expression, or settling down beside them in silence when I find them hidden, staring glumly at the ground in the garden, is a way of reminding them that, despite whatever they were taught by their families, the world does see and care and sometiems even respond when they are hurting.
I feel so powerless and overwhelmed by the world sometimes. I want to change the circumstances these and so many other children are growing up in. I want not only to offer these girls everything they need to succeed and find peace in this world, but also to change the very systems that make their pain a possibility in the first place. So often I feel weak in the face of poverty, exploitation, violence, and human selfishness. I love my work but still sigh at night, longing to do more about this broken world we live in. Rocking Melody back to sleep, feeling her fingers, which she had wrapped around a fistful of my own pajamas, slowly relaxing and uncurling, I was struck by the knowledge that in this moment I was changing the world she lived in. She awoke in the night to a world that seemed lonely and frightening. Now, nestled in someone’s arms, her surroundings were changed to seem safe, warm, loving. Even if I didn’t change the world, for a few precious minutes, I changed hers, and for a moment I feel satisfied.