There are so many big lessons that I wish I could teach these precious ones on a daily basis—virtues, truth about the world, about God and who they are. There are many days that I wish I could divide myself into 42 pieces and give each and every one of them the individual attention they deserve, the hugs, encouraging words, fun outings and even loving discipline. I wish I had all the time in the world to play chess with Aldahir, take Adrian to the history museum, take Brenda on a walk just to catch-up, sit and share meals with Oscar, sing a song with Edgar and play cops and robbers with Carlos and Isamar. Yet, as I wait for “all the time in the world” and a supernatural ability to be 42 places at once, I soak in each moment that I have and thank God for little things that can teach great lessons- little things like antibacterial gel.
Throughout the past year, I have had the privilege to participate in many trainings fueled by the knowledge and research of really smart people in the realm of orphan care, like Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. Jayne Schooler. The richness of the principles that I have learned in these courses goes far deeper than the example that I am about to give, but has created the context for a lesson found in the small bottle of soap hanging from my keys. We talk about life values- things like asking permission, being gentle and kind, using good words—and how we can teach them to kids that have experienced trauma. And all of that begins with everyday moments of connection.
So, I show up several times a week at Casa Hogar del Norte and my keys are always in my hand or in my purse. In no time at all, at least one of those 42 voices interrupts the hugs and hellos with some beautiful words “¿me das gel antibacterial por favor?” and I reward their polite request with a squirt of that wonderfully-scented soap. It only takes one to start the chorus of beautiful words and the ritual of spontaneous gifts of germ-free goodness, one dollop at a time.
These are some of the moments that I love. Mostly because it hasn’t always been that way; rather, those beautiful words are a result of so many teachable moments, one after another—“how do you ask with your beautiful words?”, “thank you so much for using those beautiful words!”, “You are missing a magic word at the end”, “You need to ask nicely. Do you want to try that again?”—still continuing into the present as we daily learn together. Some days, they erupt into tantrums, some days they finally get it right after a couple of re-dos, some days they gently remind each other and some days they just say it so perfectly on the first try. And always, we celebrate when they do well—smiles, praises and sniffing every single one of their tiny hands and exclaiming “Oh that smells so good!!”
And then, there are days like last week when Eduardo comes to me and says “Jenn, will you please lift me up and put me on the trampoline?” to which I reply, “Of course, thank you for asking so nicely!” And before jumping around, he smiles down at me from the trampoline and says