When Meggie was here, it was Christmas.
Ah-of course it was! It will feel like Christmas when she returns again. And now, six long months have passed. We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of first laying eyes on her. We are so anxious for this adoption to be done at last. Other families whiz by and we wait, and wait.
It’s hard to imagine Meggie sleeping in an orphanage or boarding school while I go about my day. Children were not meant to sleep in orphanages. I know, because I’ve met her. I couldn’t know just by reading the facts. The facts make orphans sound like some other species, quite un-human. Children sleep in warm beds where parents watch them breathe. Orphans live in orphanages just like foxes live in foxholes.
But Meggie isn’t an orphan, she’s a girl. She has soft skin and shiny hair and an affinity for fake nails. She has a bright mind and a soft heart and wit. She isn’t statistical, she’s delightful. She cannot be an orphan.
And yet, legally, she is. And she will be until this boatload of paperwork is done with. It’s hard to imagine her in an orphanage because she’s Meggie. I have seen many orphans in my day. Some of them give you the idea that they aren’t quite human, I’ll admit. They fall asleep in dog piles of unkempt bedmates, slurp down the same gruel every day without a thought, fight to survive with little sympathy for others and seem to take little note of the outside world. These are children who have been made prisoner. They are worrying about things only parents should be worrying about. They are unable to have a childhood because they are so constantly fighting for survival.
And then there’s Meggie. Perhaps she has never been in danger of starvation or been involved in a civil war, but her life has been a series of sad stories. She really does live in an orphanage in a remote part of Eastern Europe. She really is bussed to a boarding school during the weekdays. She really comes to us wearing a bright red cap, identifying her as one of the many orphans on the plane.
She really does write us the occasional letter or email, the most recent stating that she is crying and needs to come home.
She is not a dog in the pound or a face on a commercial, tricking you into donating your money. She is not the star of a moving music video about some Christian band doing good deeds. She is not a mindless, heartless drone in the shape of a child. Most of all, she is not a number.
It is hard imagining Meggie in an orphanage, because it feels like imagining myself in an orphanage. If, by some tragedy, I had been orphaned and wound up in her country, under her circumstances, that’s how I would feel. I would actually lie in bed and imagine an adoptive family somewhere. I’d cry for my Mommy and pray that she’d come find me. I would enjoy reading and drawing and dress up, just as Meggie does. And I’d know I was an orphan. And I’d hate that.
I do hate it. I hate that Meggie has lost a family and still waits to gain another. I hate that she is at school right now and will go back to the orphanage for another lonely night tomorrow. I hate that she doesn’t know how hard we are trying to get there or why other children are leaving and yet, day after day, we do not come.
I hate that Meggie is one of 153 million children in the world right now who have lost one or both of their parents. As I imagine Meggie in her little bed, with the few belongings to her name, looking just as sweet and precious as the day she left, yet being classified as just another orphan, I try to remind myself: there are millions of “Meggies” out there. Their childhoods are passing quickly under their tired feet. They are walking from one foster home to another, from the boarding school and back to the orphanage. From tragedy to pain to hopeless future.
There is no time to waste. As Meggie anxiously anticipates my parents coming to bring her home, millions of other children only dream of having such a dream.