As Louise, Michael and I fed the children this past Sunday I found myself in the midst of a huge, bear hug from one of the girls. It was that type where she just leapt up into my arms and wrapped her thin arms and legs around me then giggled. She hugged me tight, and I could easily feel her joy there in my arms. We nuzzled into each other, I squeezed my eyes closed and softly I thought "This must be what Agape love feels like." I honestly hadn't even heard or used the term 'agape love' for at least ten years but I think I, for the first time, am experiencing it. This week the children did not panic with the fear that they would not receive food when they saw us. Instead we received smiles, hugs and (fairly) organized lines. This is the fourth or fifth week in a row that I have fed the kids in this particular slum, I love these children in a way that I have never felt before. I wonder, I hope, I pray that they feel it too.
We changed things a little bit this time around. There were only three of us and I was worried because usually we have around five. We made the fifty meals in record time, and when I return to India after my visit to the states I will finally be able to purchase the huge pots and a gas counter-top stove. That means that I will be able to increase the meals I make each time. When we walked away this week, I told Louise that it seems I could start making 75 meals or so. So I have to. In addition, I brought along a sharpie marker so that I could mark each child's hand as they receive their meal. This significantly reduced the chaos, plus it was really cute to see the children in the line catch on and come to me with their hands out, palms facing down as opposed to up. Their hands are so dirty, so it also seems that perhaps since things are calming down that I could take the time to wash them before getting their meal.
As we left to walk home, some of my favorite girls grabbed our hands and walked with us. I stopped and asked them each their names, they gazed at my Mahendi and we shared some more hugs. It took everything within me to not just march them down to my home and allow them to bathe and maybe even feed them again. Maybe someday.
In four days I fly to the states. I have to admit, that though I miss my family and friends dearly I am going to miss this the next two weeks. Luckily, I have amazing friends and coworkers here who will continue to feed the kiddos in my absence. Then, I will arrive back just in time to have an extra special Christmas with a street girls day and a Christmas meal for the slums made with that crazy, unique Agape love.