Orphan Survival Stories Index |
IT IS IMPORTANT
I was surprised to see the "yard sale" sign out front of the orphanage gate as I drove past last week. It had been almost two years since I drove through those two large, white gates. I had sworn to myself that once I left the orphanage, I would never again enter or step foot on their property.
I turned right off Spring Park Road and entered through the gates. Slowly, I drove down the narrow, white, rocky road that I had walked so many times as a young boy. I looked from side to side at the six foot-high, metal chain-link fences that still surrounded the entire compound. The same fences that held me, and many other children prisoners for more than 10 years.
As I rounded the corner, I saw numerous tables set up out front of what use to be the nursery building. There were girls standing at several of the tables and boys at several different tables.
"I see they still keep the boys separated from the girls," I thought as I came to a stop.
I got out of my car, walked up to the tables and began to look at what all was for sale.
"Can I help you?" asked one of the girls.
"Just looking," I said.
Several other girls walked up to the table and stood there. One began to tell me that they were having a yard sale so they could raise enough money to go to Disney World.
"What's it like living here now?" I questioned.
Not one of them said a word. Each stood totally silent with a blank expression on their face.
"I use to live here when I was a kid," I said as I pointed to the large two-story, white, brick dormitory, which lay across the large grassy circle in the center of the orphanage grounds.
"Its horrible. Its just horrible," said one of the girls.
The other girls all shook their heads up and down, as if to approve what she just told me.
"They took my baby away from me and they gave it away for adoption," said one of the girls.
I did not know what to say to her. I had heard numerous stories over the past few years of girls being sent to the Children's Home Society and being forced to sign away their children.
"I'm gonna run away," said one of the girls.
"Me too." said another.
"You don't want to do that,” I said. “It is very dangerous to do that. I could not count the times I ran away and it got me nowhere."
"I don't care," said the larger of the girls.
When I looked up from the table, all five of the girls were staring directly at me. It was if they were waiting for me to tell them what they should do. Slowly, I looked from girl to girl. I could see the loneliness, the fright and a deep sadness in each of their eyes. Not one of them ever smiled or changed their expressions.
"You just have to wait it out. Your day is going to come," I told them.
"But you don't know… ” the girl started to say. Her face tightened as if she wanted to cry.
"BUT I DO KNOW!" I said rather forcefully back to her, before she could finish her sentence.
"I see that you have a small swimming pool now," I said.
"That's all there is to do here," said the smaller girl.
"I turned around and looked across the grounds to see if I could see the large metal swing set, which was all we had to use when I was a kid.
"All we had to do was those swings right there," I said as I pointed across the roadway.
"Can you please help us?" asked one of the girls.
I don't know what I can do," I replied.
"CAN I HELP YOU?" asked a large man who walked up to the table.
"Just looking," I said.
The girls all stepped back from the table and stood silently at attention, looking as if they were about to get into trouble.
I never was much of a ‘hugger,’ but I sure wanted to hug those five girls. I am not sure if the orphanage is as bad today as it was when I lived there back in the 1950s and 1960s, but I do know that the expressions of fear, loneliness and sadness are still present today. I could see it as plain as the nose on my face. I know that those girls must hate being incarcerated and treated as if they are no more than prisoners. I also know that they do not understand why they are being treated in the manner that they are.
Yes, it is important that I tell my stories. It is important that I not let the world forget what has happen in the past. It is important that I continue to tell my stories, until someone will stop and listen to what is wrong with the system. Maybe one day, someone will do something to stop what is still happening to children in American orphanages.