When I first thought about coming to the China Care Home, I envisioned lots of little kids running around on shaky legs, laughing while trying not to trip over their own two feet. I pictured myself meeting TianLei, whose surgery my China Care Club (Georgia Tech) partially funded. I almost wish I could say that my time here at the Home was like my fantasy, but now, as I prepare to say goodbye to all the children, the nannies, and the wonderful nurses, cooks, and staff who keep the place running, I am glad it wasn’t. Even though what I had imagined was not what actually happened, I cannot say that I was ever even the slightest bit disappointed by what I experienced and saw at the China Care Home.
There were fewer kids in the room than I had expected. One or two were tottering around, a couple more were crawling, and a few were lying down – not exactly the track meet I had created in my mind. I also wasn’t able to meet TianLei, because he had left the Home a a few weeks earlier. While I was a little bummed at first, I soon realized that this was actually fantastic news. Leaving the Home meant that his surgery had gone well and that he had recovered enough to return to his home province. Go China Care!
As I volunteered, one little girl in particular, CuiLing, made my time at the Home especially memorable. The first time I saw her, she was quietly sitting off to the side of the room transfixed by a picture book, poring over it with unbreakable concentration. When I went over to say hello, she immediately drew away from me and almost started to cry. I decided it best not to push her any further, so I wandered to the other side of the room. As the days went by, however, I found myself coming back her. Maybe it was the way she was always clutching a book, no matter how torn and shredded its pages were. Maybe it was how she seemed to shy away from everyone but her nanny, and I, as ashamed as I am to admit it, saw it as almost a challenge to bond with her. Whatever the reason was, each day I would gradually scoot closer to her until she finally allowed me to help her flip the pages of her book, which felt like a huge accomplishment. But the best was yet to come. In my mind, the single most rewarding moment of this entire experience was when she voluntarily crawled into my lap and reached out her arms towards me, asking to be held. This was coming from the shy little girl who only a few days earlier wouldn’t let me come near her. That feeling is incredible.
That moment in and of itself would have made the entire experience great. But the culmination of little moments like that one from all the kids has made this experience better than what I could have ever hoped for. Sometimes, reality far exceeds even what your imagination can come up with.