Orphan Survival Stories Index |
"The Bible pictures say that Jesus loves all the little children. How come there's nobody but Jesus that loves us?" asked Billy Smith, one of the little boys from our orphanage.
I watched the Sunday school teacher, as she stood totally motionless. Her mouth cocked to one side and her tongue licked the side of her lips.
"Uh... just because you kids live in an orphanage does not mean that no one loves you," she stated.
"Well, no one ever hugs or kisses on us," said Billy.
I was not about to open my mouth or say a word. Too many times I had talked about the way we were treated at the orphanage, only to have myself beaten within an inch of my life with a bamboo cane pole or a polo paddle. The room fell totally silent. Every boy in the classroom, who lived in the orphan home, sat quietly looking back and forth at one another, each waiting to see if another one of the boys was brave enough to open his mouth.
"I ain't gonna say noth'n," whispered Wayne.
"Me neither. Don't do no good no way," said Billy Stroud out of the side of his mouth.
Slowly, I rose from my seat and just stood at attention.
"Roger, do you have something you want to say to the class?" asked the teacher.
"I don't even know why we even come here every Sunday," I said.
"Don't you like coming to Sunday school and learning about the Bible?" asked the teacher.
"It's all a waste of time. We only come here so we don't have to work raking leaves and pine straw," I replied.
"That's the only reason you come?" she asked.
"That's only why I come," I said pointing to the middle of my chest.
The room was so quiet you could here a pin drop. Even the teacher did not have the slightest idea what to say. Slowly, I looked around the room and watched as the other boys from the orphanage sat rubbing their hands together. Several of them were so nervous they were shaking their legs back and forth. Little Billy Smith was rocking back and forth, just like he always did when he sat for hours on the end of his bed at the orphanage. I turned and looked at Horase Barnes, a 5-year-old from the orphanage as he began to cry aloud.
"Let's go to the bus," I said to Wayne and Bill.
The three of us walked out of the classroom and headed down the stairs to where the church bus was parked. We boarded the bus and sat there not saying a word to one another. I took the nickel out of my pocket that the orphanage had given me to put in the collection plate.
"Extra milk at school tomorrow," I said to Wayne and Bill as I showed them the buffalo head nickel.
The three of us began laughing out loud. Even though all three of us were laughing, we still had a look of terror on our little faces. We knew very well the beating that all three of us would get within the hour.
That was the last time that any of us kids ever said anything about not being loved or about being mistreated by the orphanage, for that matter. Being beaten, molested and worked to death became a way of life for us kids. Those kinds of things became ordinary to us and were accepted as normal everyday occurrences.
I do not know of one kid who ever went to church after leaving the orphanage. I suppose most of us found the church to be almost a useless tool, at least with respect to making righteous changes in the world. As a young man, I found it useless to try to save the soul of a child while their body was being tormented and abused.
Making changes in the lives of my children and grandchildren has not been an easy battle. I bit my tongue as I carried my grandchildren to church this Easter Sunday morning. Oh, how the songs they sing bring back such horrible memories. I can only thank God that I became a Christian in spite of my past.