This is a story I was worried I might someday find myself writing. Another rainy morning in the slum meant Parvati wasn’t outside waiting for me to administer her daily medicine. I walked to her home, squatted down and when we were finished a grandmother living across the way called me over. I peeked inside the dark shanty house, soaked and disintegrating from the days of rain. Back in the far corner cowered a tiny little girl whom I had never seen before. My eyes filled with worry as this granny told me that she had found the girl ten days back abandoned in a foot bath in one of the busy markets. She tells me she looked for the mother or father but couldn’t find them. No one has showed up in the area looking for the girl. She said the girl was clearly sick and wouldn’t eat or drink. I asked if she had a name and was told the girl wouldn’t speak.
I called her over, the girl with no name, and right away she came. Her eyes were equally as huge with worry. I guessed her to be around three, arms and legs skinny with malnutrition, a huge round belly, scratches, cuts, bruises and a swollen lip. I asked her name, no response just eyes searching mine. It was all I could do to keep myself from scooping her up in that moment and taking her home with me forever. I took off my shoes and sat inside the home with her for some time, soggy cardboard underneath me, rain dripping through holes in the tarp over my head. The granny told me the story over and over. I called and arranged to take her to the doctor that afternoon. Walking away, my mind was reeling. She needs to go to an orphanage… she’s an orphan. Her parents left her. The family that found her has potentially abused her. Her lip was too swollen to have happened more than ten days back. My heart was so heavy. There was a time when I would have felt anger over the abandonment of a child, but honestly, there is no room for anger. I don’t fully understand, no, but now all that is left is what to do from here, not what happened leading up to this.
I got to work and with the help of our child life specialist called an emergency child protection group. They came to us an hour later, and off we went back to the slum. I wish I could say I knew 100% that this was the right choice, but in actuality it is a choice that may come with repercussions. The foundation of trust with the adults in this community took a long time to build and could crumble very easily. Without their trust and acceptance we are not welcome to help their children. Me bringing the two young women from this protection group could likely be viewed as a ‘policing’ maneuver but honestly, what other choice could there have been? The granny begged and pleaded to keep the child, she started to become angry as she swore she would feed the girl, clothe her and send her to school though her actual grandchildren are struggling to get by every single day. At that point, Parvati spoke up. She counseled the granny telling her to think of the life that will be offered to this little girl if she went to the orphanage; that releasing her was the right choice. That young woman has such a unique heart; she has stood by me from day one when none of the other parents trusted us. She gives me hope through all of the darkness, because with those words granny accepted that the little girl had to go.
We scooped her up and with granny trailing behind us, this little girl’s new life began.
I must admit, I do in a small way understand why the grandmother wanted to keep this child who was in no way hers. I, too, momentarily envisioned providing a life for her but sometimes what we want is not what is actually best, let alone right, for the person whom we are helping. It breaks me into pieces to know I have a heart for adoption and would in a second if the time was right, but that time is not now. Granny learned in that day that you can not just find and keep a child, that you must follow a legal process and that an amazing life could be ahead for a girl who was discarded by those who are supposed to love her most. A life has been provided, not what I selfishly desired in a fleeting moment, not what the grandmother wanted at that time but a life that perhaps Parvati saw the potential for before any of us. An opportunity to have a home, an education, protection from child trafficking, parents who love her so much, who have waited a lifetime for her to come home and complete them. Oh little girl, somewhere out there are parents desiring you, loving you without yet knowing you. Praying for your path to meet with theirs. Oh little girl, life is just beginning. You no longer need to be scared or hurt. Now is the moment, sweet child, to start healing.