It was 11 o’clock and I was tired.
After two days of near constant online nudging, my Orphan Water campaign had hit its goal. 41 contributors for $4000! The Mission was getting a new water system for Christmas. My heart was full.
And yet, I was also emotionally drained by a Facebook run-in with my daughter, Jackson. She was mad at me for being away, feeling neglected. Missing me. It didn’t help that I was posting stories and videos about all the kids I was trying to help over here in India. “What about your own kids?” Jackson asked.
It really made me think. Did Logan feel this way, too? Was I making orphans of my own children by being here? It would be a bitter irony, if so. I didn’t want that.
I needed some sleep.
But as I logged off my computer and packed up to go…I saw the bicycle behind me. It was a top-of-the-line pink girl’s bike and it was going to be a huge hit. Jyotika turned twelve in an hour and her sponsor wanted to pamper her. So she bought her a bike. The girl certainly deserved it.
If you’ve been with me for a while, you might remember Jyotika and her sister Malika. Eight months ago, I visited them in their home, such as it was; a hot, cramped apartment down an alley carpeted with garbage. Their parents were dead. They’d lived alone for seven months before being taken in by a neighbor. But then the neighbor couldn’t care for them anymore. They had nowhere else to go.
On the day I met them, the two girls looked like this. Malika’s in black, Jyotika’s in yellow.
They were scared, wary, not going to school, with a dim future before them. They needed a bath and a safe home. More than anything, they looked like they needed love the way a flower needs sunlight.
And so they came to the Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission and day by day, one laugh, one hug at a time, they have turned into two of the sweetest, sparlkliest darlings on the farm. They’re also two of the smartest kids in their classrooms. I took this picture this past Sunday.[frame style=”modern” image_path=”http://indianorphanage.com/io/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/last-Malika_and_Jyotika_Dec1.jpg” link_to_page=”” target=”” description=”” float=”” lightbox=”http://indianorphanage.com/io/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/last-Malika_and_Jyotika_Dec1.jpg” lightbox_group=”” size=”two_col_large”]
Now it was Jyotika’s birthday eve and I wanted to make it special for her. So though it was late and I was beat, I got to work. I printed four copies of the Mission map, created a quick simple hunt with “X”s on the pages, leading to locations where the next map could be found.
Then, after placing each rolled map in its hiding place, I wheeled the bike out behind the dining hall and into the mango orchard. It was foggy, nearly midnight. My phone—which usually operates as my flash light—was dead. All I could do was walk blind into the darkness.
It was creepy, actually. Jackals were on the other side of the orchard wall, cackling like lunatics. And tall, clingy weeds grew in tangles on the ground, grabbing for my feet like fingers from the grave. But it wasn’t the undead I was afraid of.
An eight-foot cobra has been seen in the orchard—though the odds of me stumbling over it were low. Still, I could not see where I was going and my heart beat a little faster each time something tugged on my ankle.
Eventually, I made it to the back of the orchard, hid the bike behind a tree and covered it with a sheet, then hurried back to my room. Before climbing into bed, I was writing in my journal as I do each night, when I slowly became aware of a searing pain just below my right calf.
Lifting my pant leg, I found two bleeding circles, like fang prints, on my skin. I’m not joking. Had I been bitten? I scanned my body for signs, tried to sense venom in my blood stream.
I was exhausted, totally spent—but was that a symptom? Was cobra venom a slow acting poison? I wondered. Would it hit me in my sleep? What if this was my last moment?
With that thought in mind, I looked down at my journal, remembered my own two beautiful children, and wrote legibly for once, just in case:
Dear Logan and Jackson.
I’m sorry if I’ve been away too much.
I’ve been trying to make sense of all the change in my life.
If it has been hard for you, I’m sorry. It’s been hard for me too.
Just know: Nothing can change the love I have for you both.
Also know: I’m happy again. I’m doing something I love.
Now please tell Jyotika her bike is in the orchard.
But have her be careful of the cobra.
In the morning, I was not dead, the bite on my leg looked more like a scrape, and Jyotika’s bike hunt went off as planned. To celebrate another day of being alive, I put together this short video.
I hope it reminds you how good it feels to feel special. Now I just need to make sure my own kids feel this way.