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Perceptions: The orphan
Recently, my teenage daughter dragged me off to an orphanage in Mexico. The trip seared images into my memory I will never forget.
Crowds of children flocked to receive a glass of warm powdered milk with a spoonful of peanut butter smeared on the rim. They held the cups unsteadily in their hands, making a moving target for the milk. Some of it ran in white furrows down their fingers and splashed on the dusty ground.
A young woman sat patiently with an infant in one arm and a plastic jug in the other, hoping there would be some left over.
Araselli had been raised in the orphanage and now ran the kitchen.
Her knife worked close to her fingers and very fast. She laughed good-naturedly at my slow, cautious technique.
I spent a morning scrubbing a walk-in refrigerator with Manuel, who had served five years in a Tijuana prison. Every now and then he winced from the pain of a bullet still lodged in his shoulder. This did not diminish his warmth or enthusiasm.
Edmundo was a recovering heroine addict with a Band-Aid over a hole where his left eye had once been.
I sat in amazement as he delivered one of the most exegetically precise sermons on the book of Jude I have ever heard.
Children pressed against my legs shouting "caballo!" begging to be picked up for a piggyback ride. I ran around with them on my back until I was breathless and sore.
An old man made a beeline for me with his hand outstretched. With a few brown teeth he flashed a smile that made my orthodontically straightened, White Strip-enhanced grin seem dull by comparison.
At the heart of the orphanage was a prayer chapel. I went in one night to pray for the orphans. A middle-aged Mexican woman came in, fell to her knees, and began to whisper passionately to God in Spanish.
I had a strong sensation that it was I who needed her prayers, not she who needed mine, that she had greater intimacy with the Father than I ever will, that I was the orphan, not she.