“My father is hitting my mother,” one of my boys told me in his plaintive English, “and my mother is died.”
Another girl told me that “When I’m inside [the center], I have to always smile and pretend to be happy.” Later I was helping the same girl with a school assignment. I asked her if she knew this word in her book: “tuberculosis.” “I know it,” she said, “My father died from tuberculosis.”
Sometimes I forget that my kids are in any way abnormal – they smile the same as other children; they play the same. I lose sight of the fact that many of them have been betrayed by the people who should have loved them most, or lost those who did. Recently, without thinking, I asked another of my girls about a scar on her arm, which I said looked like a burn. It was.
She asked me what I thought caused another of her scars, a sharply-defined gash on her leg. When I said I didn’t know, she raised her arm like she was swinging something downward. “Bolo?” I guessed, and she nodded. A bolo is the local version of a machete. “My mother used to…” she said, having trouble explaining, but it was pretty clear.
This past week I helped facilitate a girls’ leadership camp along with several other volunteers. One overcast night before our videoke talent show, one of the girls from my center approached me. She said “Tito, I have no star.” I spent several minutes scouring the sky looking for a star to give her, but aside from the blazing moon, all light above was obscured by clouds. When I finally found one hovering above the trees, she was already asleep.
My kids play and dance and sing, they watch over their adopted siblings, they fall in and out of love and they sleep and wake in a beautiful world. But sometimes it seems like there will always be something or someone that hates them; always something insidious watches them from the shadows, ensuring that they have no stars.