My life: In Taiwan, there was a family that I worked with. Three families and three generations in one poorly maintained home situated dangerously close to a power substation. In the middle of affluent Neihu, it was the closest I got to poverty on my mission and it broke my heart. The parents all had to work long hours and low-paying jobs in an attempt to make ends meet and so left their 10+ children in the hands of an aged and stern grandfather who mostly ignored them. Although fed and clothed, the children were starving for love. My companion and I visited them weekly to teach them a short lesson about Jesus and teach a song or two and then play a game and eat a treat. Due to mission rules, we were not allowed to hold or hug the children but we often talked of the day when we were no longer missionaries and we could throw our arms around those little ones and show them how much we truly loved them. (My companion had a dream of trotting all those kids down the street to buy them all ice cream cones - another impossibility on a mission budget.) As it was, those kids tried their hardest to worm their way into our arms and our laps. They finally settled on simply kissing our hands when we left them each week.
One day the male missionaries who served in the same area came back from visiting the grandfather and we laughed as they told us off the devious antics of the kids to scramble onto their laps and we smiled when they teased us and said that all the kids adored us and referred to us as, "Auntie missionaries." Then one of the elders spoke up with a chuckle. "I really don't get why you spend so much time on those kids. They aren't going to amount to anything. They're not going to make it." I burst into tears.
Yesterday, I found this excerpt from an autobiography of my new hero, Jim Abbott, a famous baseball player who was famous for being a pitcher in spite of only having one hand. During his career, he had the opportunity to meet several other children born with imperfect bodies.
"They were shy and beautiful, and they were loud and funny, and they were, like me, somehow imperfectly built. And, like me, they had parents nearby, parents who willed themselves to believe that this accident of circumstance or nature was not a life sentence, and that the spirits inside these tiny bodies were greater than the sums of their hands and feet."
He then went on to talk about how those little children and their courage and optimism changed him and made him a better baseball player and a better man.
I think that those words - spirits who were greater than the sum of their hands and feet - is such a great way to describe the potential of children born into difficult circumstances.
I was recently told about the book The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore about two men from Baltimore with the exact same name and similar circumstances. One Wes Moore went on to become a Rhodes Scholar and a White House fellow and the other ended up in prison for life. Whoever told me about this book (I'm sorry, I can't remember who at the moment) said that this book discusses not only what small doors opened that made one a success but also leaves with the thought that the world is lacking and missing something from what could have been an equally wonderful and brilliant contribution from the other Wes Moore.
So many people can judge children and say they won't make it. I pray that I may have the courage to say that they can and be able to do much to help those children achieve their dreams and reach their potential.