When three gang up all asking for the same thing... it doesn't take much to make me give in and pull up the photos they want to see on the computer. Scrolling through them and hearing their excited shouts as they recognize themselves and friends. That's what got me in trouble. I left them with the pictures. I thought it might be safe, since I was still sitting in front of the computer. Nope.
Happily, it only took me three tries to rectify the problem. Still not sure how they accomplished it, but luckily it wasn't a complete wipe of my files!
Fixed and forgiven... we stopped looking through the pictures but they weren't ready to leave my company. Instead they decided on a language lesson. One spoke french enough to tell me what she wanted/was saying. The rest were working on my "Malinke". Point at their nose, my nose, say the word, make me repeat it. I do, they move on. (and I promptly forgot). Next body part, next body part, word after word, stumbled over as I attempt to copy the slurred and distorted pronunciation of a little one whose lip was just operated on, and another little one missing a tooth and lisping. They giggled and hopped about, and made the moment memorable by their enthusiasm. I really wish I could remember these languages that people here are always trying to teach me. But instead, I just enjoy the moments of connection and laughter.
These are the children that know what it is to be different. Some born with clefts that split their mouths or faces, others with growths that distort their features, still others with scarring from burns. Delicate surgeries replace what was lost, fix what was distorted. Days of healing, of convincing them that medications will help, that soft diets or bedrest is good for them. Days of making faces across the wards and balloon volleyball and sticker therapy. As they heal, their energy levels rise and we see them blossom. Here they come and find that there are others like them. Here they play like normal children. Here we embrace them as they are, and so they run into our arms and won't let go. Beauty from ashes.
I pray that they pay it forward. That they find ways to embrace and uplift those they meet as they grow up. That the seeds planted here would mature and blossom over time into something stronger and better than I could ever imagine for them.
Here are a few of the beautiful troublemakers I get to play with!