Orphan Survival Stories Index |
"CAN I HAVE A CHARM
WITH MY NAME ON IT?"
It has been a very long time since I've visited what most people consider to be an orphanage or a children's home. There was a time many years ago, when I told myself that I would never again step foot in such a place.
This week, I was invited to spend the day at an orphanage located about 45 miles from my home here in Brunswick, Georgia. I loaded up 15 books to give to the 50 or so children now living at the home. Three each of the ‘Heartwarmers’ book series, four of my own books (‘Orphan, A true story of abandonment, abuse and redemption’) and two ‘Chicken Soup for the Grandparents Soul’ books. Each book was personally autographed with a special message to the children.
I have to admit that my heart was racing as I drove down the long stretch of roadway leading to the main office building. As beautiful as the grounds were, there was this absence of movement and a dead silence that always lingers at any type of children's institution. The few children I did see were walking with their heads down, eyes toward the ground.
How well I remember that walk. I walked it every day for more than 14 years. How well I remember not looking straight ahead knowing all along that there was nothing new for me to look at.
Upon arriving at the main office, I was introduced to the administrator who asked me to follow him. As we made our way from dormitory to dormitory, I noticed the children all standing at attention next to their well made beds. Each and every child had a somber look on his or her face. Each probably wondered whom I was and why I was there - wondering if I might be the one who would take them far away from this place.
As we started to leave the last dormitory, there came a faint smile from one 7 or 8-year-old girl who was standing at attention by her bed. GOD! How I wanted to give the little girl a great big hug and let her make a mess of her room. Oh, how it hurts me to remember back when I was standing at attention myself. An innocent little boy, who was made to stand military style just to let strangers know what a good little boy I was, but knowing all along that it was doing no good.
I reached over and handed her one of the Heartwarmers books. Inside the front cover, I had written, "I have not forgotten my brothers and sisters. Orphan, Roger Dean Kiser."
When we arrived back at the office, there were many children waiting in a line to see if anyone had written them a letter. As the mail was handed out, there were still many children left standing with looks of disappointment on their faces. I stood wondering how long it had been since any of these children had really seen the sun. How long before they can learn to fly on their own after being emotionally crippled by adults? How long would it be before they could walk proud down the street again?
I hope the day will come when orphanages and children's homes realize that learning to stand tall does not mean a child has to stand at attention - that learning to get back on your feet again does not mean a child has to be strong before they become an adult. These kids have already had to crawl and have paid their dues. Feeding, clothing, housing and educating these children are only half the job. These kids really need and deserve the things that money can't buy - love, kindness, respect and maybe just a letter now and then.
Before leaving the orphanage, I was handed a list of things the children might want. Their requests ranged anywhere from in-line skates to underwear. The saddest one of all was from a little girl who asked, "Could I have a charm with my name on it?"
It hit me right then and there that her name was the only thing she truly owned.
She will get that charm.