Tuesday, October 21, 2008

She tells me her name is Alexandria as she stares up at me with her wide brown eyes and twists the fraying hem of her dirtied, pink t-shirt. I kneel down and brush her soaked, black, bangs to see her better. "Cuanto anos,Alexendria?" She hold up her hand. 6. She is 6.

Moments ago I had watched her from the sidelines of the room listening to the story with the rest of the children and a toddler on her lap. She struggled to keep him situated as he was too big for someone her size and someone her age, to be holding. I look around to see where he is at now and find he is being sung to by one of the translators. I point across the dimly lit, make shift room and her gaze follows. "Hermanos?". She nods and points to 5 other children, then over to a woman standing in the doorway, who is nursing an infant.

Alexandria beams as I lift her up onto the bench to start combing her wet, knotted hair. It smells strongly of chemicals and her hand is marked with a sticker. I reach for the lice combs. Her legs dangle over the edge, tapping the air with refrained excitement. So I begin...and as I do my mind begins to travel to a different room, one far from the the cement walls and dirt floors of this Honduran town, traveling instead to the carpeted hallways of my childhood Wisconsin home. I skip down the hallway with a book in my hand. My pink nightgown is clean and warm from the dryer and my shampoo smells like apples. I sit down to read and my father begins. My father is brushing my hair. My father...

Now I am back with Alexandria. She turns her head up at me and smiles again. As I smile silently back and begin braiding, the devastation of a culture who's fathers are absent, who's men are always leaving and whose women are always being left, becomes all too clear.

I had heard of the horrifying statistics at our nightly meetings...but now I understood what those numbers meant. Now I understood that one of my greatest blessings was one of her greatest needs.

Before saying goodbye I wrap each end of her shining hair in sparkling pink bobbles and whisper, "muy bonita". She bounds off the bench, glowing with pride and runs to embrace her mothers hips. The rest of them have all been waiting for her. Laughing, she scoops up her wobbling brother. As they walk back out into the pot-holed streets, I struggle to keep the tears at bay. We begin packing up and as we do, I find myself whispering a desperate prayer, one begging for God to provide for all the fatherless children,for all the lonely mothers...and for all the broken families.


Steve said...

Not fair. I read this at work and I think you can probably guess my reaction. Signed, your father. (A thought-- while you didn't have a "conversation", this story still fits the theme. Not every conversation we have with people is verbal.)

Chris said...

This almost brought tears to my eyes, too. How wonderful you were able to add a little bit of happiness and prettiness to one little girl's day.

Claire said...

I cry. I miss my dad. I long for him today. Your post just makes it more real. I realise that the painof being fatherless is the type of pain that never subsides. It is a hole that you learn to carry with you. You stop trying to fill after a while for it cannot be filled with earthly matter.

Georgia (AKA g-bug) said...

the first of many.
small pieces.
perfect for my appetite!

like tapas!
i'm hungry for more.
i will wait patiently for the next.

this was precious.