As I think about the events of this first full day in China, the word that rings the loudest is joy. After a tour of the Forbidden City this morning, led by our wonderful tour guide, Jim, the group headed out for lunch in the food court of a nearby mall. Ordering and paying for food may not sound like an adventure, but it is when you and your waitress can’t even guess at each other’s languages. I was amazed at the success of our communication without the use of words. The waitress took a table of people from the other side of the world and was able to help us order and pay without any problems. People are really incredible.
After lunch, we headed to New Hope Orphanage where we were given a brief tour explaining how the orphanage is run specifically for children with health problems, mainly surgically correctable diseases. The orphanage loves and cares well for these children, gets them the surgeries and medical help that they need, and hopes that they will someday be adopted into a loving family. Once the tour was complete, we were free to play with the children all afternoon. These kids have such big personalities; my heart was touched by each one. Again, the amazement of communicating without words struck me. One young boy kept touching underneath my chin, and I soon caught on that this meant he wanted me to tickle him beneath his chin. A little girl who had some trouble with walking held my hands and pulled me upward. Then she shuffled her feet in circles, and next thing I knew, we were dancing! Another boy who especially captured my heart was having the time of his life play acting with me. We would take turns playing pretend and making silly faces, and he would laugh so hard and smile so wide that I couldn’t help but do the same.
When Fr. Killian was at the door, the boy slammed the door shut with his wheelchair and started cracking up. He may be a sneaky one, but between his unique personality and the plethora of laughter that passed between us, this boy and all of the children left me bursting with joy. Each and every child in that orphanage has a heart full of love, and if our group from Saint Vincent brought them half as much joy as they brought us, then today was a complete success.