Our Scarlett Marie came to America when she was 5 from an orphanage in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She didn't make her way into our family until she was almost 7. The losses that she has experienced in her short life would bring most people to their knees- but she's still standing.
For many years, our girl felt unloveable, unwanted and alone. There is a saying: The kid who needs the most love will often ask for it in the most unloving ways. So many times, as her mother, I'm ashamed to say that I've been overwhelmed with the ways that her feelings have worked themselves out in the life of our family. It's a hard thing helping a child rewire their thinking to learn that they ARE worthy, that they have value and that no matter what, you will keep being there for them. Teaching love is hard. Most of the time it looks pretty ugly. It looks a lot like work and feels a lot like a battle. It is a battle we are honored to fight, though, because sometimes the battle is won.
Memories of her life before us are a double edged sword. There are low lows and there are high highs. I consider being trusted with those precious and private memories a great privilege. We don't share them publicly, because they are hers. But she gave me permission to share this one wonderful memory...
Every year our family packs shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. Last year, while we were packing our shoe boxes, Scarlett said, "I remember this one great day when I was in the orphanage and someone brought us boxes of toys!" We aren't sure if she was a shoebox recipient or if someone just randomly brought toys. It was such a happy memory for her and she just grinned and grinned stuffing her shoebox remembering that day when the toys came. The tradition of the shoe boxes felt like it took on a whole new meaning for our family.
A few months ago, I began collecting things for an orphanage for a trip I was taking. In the process of collecting things, Scarlett had another memory. "Mom! One day these people came to the orphanage and they brought us a tea set! A real tea set made of glass! It was so beautiful! And I got my very own cup that was only for me. And I was so happy! I loved that cup so much!!! It broke, though, and I cried and cried." But more than the crying over the broken cup, she looked back on that memory and remembered that at one time she had something lovely and beautiful and that someone had cared enough to give it to her. Moments like these make me ever so grateful for the kindness of strangers. The impact of a small kindness to a child is monumental. I whispered prayers of thanksgiving that someone somewhere brought a tea set to that orphanage in the middle of the Congo, and that my girl felt like someone cared about her and showed her that she was worthy of that beautiful, delicate tea cup.
Today was the day that we set aside to shop for and pack our shoe boxes for this year. When I told Scarlett that today was "shoebox day" she just beamed over her morning Cheerios. In a small unsure voice she said, "Mom? Remember when I told you about that teacup that someone gave me? Could I put a teacup in my shoebox this year for some other little girl?"
We picked out the shiniest little teacups ever made because the little girl who gets those teacups needs to feel like the treasured princess that she is. We made sure that we got some that are strong and won't break because the lovey who gets them does not need any tears surrounding her teacups. Never in the history of the world have two little teacups been more thought over and prayed over. They went in a shoebox, ready to be sent out into the world with our prayers and our happy teacup memories.