Orphan Survival Stories Index |
WHAT "PRIDE" FEELS LIKE
I had originally thought I could fit everything in our two pick-up trucks, but we ended up getting so many packages that we could hardly fit them in the U-Haul truck I rented.
Let me explain.
Yesterday morning, I looked up at myself in the rear-view mirror and smiled. Who would ever think that it would be that ‘no good’ little Roger Dean Kiser who would be driving back to an orphanage with two truckloads of Christmas presents - especially in the middle of July!
Judy, Sharen and myself were ready for the one and a half hour drive to the Children's Home Orphanage in Baxley, Georgia. I knew deep in my heart that I would not be able to make it through this ‘Christmas In July’ party without shedding a tear or two.
I knew that when I looked at the children for the very first time, I would see those blank stares - that almost ghostly look that I had known for more than 14 years, while I too lived in an orphanage. It was a look that even the orphanage itself had accepted as being the normal look of a child.
When we arrived at the orphanage, the packages were unloaded and carried into the gymnasium where the party would be held.
Jacob R, age 8, Justin H, age 10, Hanna T, age 11, Kandace, age 14 and Matt B, age 13 were some of the names that had been carefully taped onto the packages. I felt a little sad that the children’s last names had to be withheld, but I guess that was necessary for their own protection or so I was told.
Using a first name and an initial for a last name reminded me of the time I was assigned the number "6918LC Roger D" just so the world could remember who I was.
All at once, the children began to file into the large room. One after the other, they stopped and sat down on the gym floor. As I stood before them, I was not sure what it was that I was going to say. I just stood and looked into their faces.
I remember thinking to myself, "So this is what it looks like to be on the other side of all those scared, lonely little faces."
"I lived in an orphanage for 14 years," I finally said. "I will never forget what it was like to never have anything that I could call my own. I just want you kids to know that there are many people in the world who care about you. They want you to know that you have not been forgotten."
The room fell totally silent. Most of the children just sat there with their hands folded on their laps. There appeared to be no expressions to their faces, whatsoever. They looked at me as though I was the leader of an orchestra, perhaps hoping I was the one who could wave the magic wand allowing them to be excited and happy.
I turned around, opened one of the large boxes and began calling out the names on the packages. As the children walked forward and took their gifts, I could see a small change in the expressions on their faces. Once again, if only for a moment, a childhood glow appeared on most of their faces and the world became a wonderful place for them to be.
"Is this really all mine?" asked one of the boys as he held up the new baseball glove that Chuck Reynolds had bought for him.
With a lump in my throat and unable to speak, I nodded my head forward in approval. Another child screamed when he found a ‘Super Soaker Water Rifle’ in his Christmas package.
"That should get him in a lot of trouble," said one of the orphanage house parents raising his eyebrows.
"Yes, I know," I told him with a big smile on my face.
I constantly scanned the large room looking at each and every child. Christmas paper was flying all about as they opened their gifts. I had never seen a 17-year-old girl cry over a teddy bear before. I knew in my heart that it was not really the teddy bear at all. It was the fact that someone felt she was worth giving a teddy bear to.
WOW! What a look on that young boy's face when he opened that little tin box and found that $80 Fossell Watch. I will never forget that look for as long as I live. It was the look of someone thinking that someone, somewhere on this earth thought he was worth a gift costing that much money.
Yes, today we have changed the world, even if it was only just a little bit. Forty-two smiling little faces laughing, some crying - all having forgotten for a moment that they are orphans living without a mother or father to love them.
This morning, each and every one of those children will get out of their beds. They will put on their very own new clothes and shoes. They will comb their hair with their very own brush. They will brush their teeth with their very own toothbrush. The boys will put on their new watches and the girls their makeup, perfume and new clothes. They will look good. They will smell good and they will feel good for the first time in a very long time. It is at that very moment that they will feel something very special inside themselves - a feeling that will stay with them forever and ever. It is the feeling that each and every one of those children is going to return to our society when they become adults.
All these children were able to see was a simple baseball glove, a watch or a teddy bear, but somewhere deep in their minds will be the subconscious thought that someone loves and cares about them.
I am so thankful that so many kindhearted Heartwarmer members pitched in to help us at The Sad Orphan Foundation after reading one of my stories several weeks ago. You reached out and touched these children's lives more than you can even imagine. I was there representing each and every one of you. Without you, this could not have been possible. I would like to end my story by telling you that all went well.
It was not the baseball glove or the teddy bear or the Fossell watch that will save these children. Yes, I was able to deliver your gifts and they loved them, but more importantly, I was able to sneak something else into the orphanage. The real gift was giving these children the opportunity to wake up this morning and discover for the first time in their lives what PRIDE feels like. All made possible because of you, because of your goodness and because of your very kind hearts.