People keep asking me “How can you bring Alina here and just send her back, isn’t it cruel?”
For these people I have an answer.
Three days ago I drove to an airport 2.5 hours from my house, and I waited anxiously with the other families expecting 28 children to walk through customs in bright yellow shirts.
And through customs they came, tired, hungry, cranky, and some very scared. We coach parents to have no expectations, and that is exactly what I had. Our girl walked through the door, looking around puzzled. I rushed up to show her the sign and let her know we were her family.
She sulked. She rolled her eyes. She asked when we could leave. She tried to find the exit to the street. She was terrified, and overtired. She flew across an ocean at a chance to find hope, and she was too tired to be brave anymore. She came with a backpack, two pair of underwear not her size, a pair of shorts, a t-shirt a friend had given her from her own trip to America, a plastic bag with a handful of pea pods, and a plastic bag with a handful of breadcrumbs. The pants she was wearing were three sizes too small and completely peppered in holes. Her shoes were so small they made pressure sores on her feet that had calloused over. This girl had nothing left in her.
I won’t lie, I did wonder what had gotten ourselves into.
We got home and she relaxed a little bit. She saw the dog and smiled. She hugged our little kids and was very excited to see her room. This girl who had not slept in three days, started to relax. My older girls sat in her room until she fell asleep, we left the night lights on, and let our little Ukrainian angel sleep.
The next day we took her shopping for the first time. I wasn’t sure how I would navigate the store, I was told their culture is much more sexualized, and if you didn’t know this about me, I don’t speak Russian. She refused to buy skirts, and bought the longest shorts possible. She hated the bathing suits and said they were “too open and they strangle me”. The battle I was expecting turned to be completely opposite. She looked at price tags and put things back, this girl whom had never been shopping for herself was better behaved than my own. The selflessness that seeps from this child is unimaginable.
Relationships are reciprocal, at least good lasting ones you get as much joy from giving as you do from receiving. I realized while my mission for the summer was to give and expect nothing in return, I had to learn to accept the gestures to allow her to experience a reciprocal relationship. I had to take to be able to give to her what she craved most: a reciprocal relationship from a mother. She has spent her entire life being too kind, its who she is. She gives to feel good about herself. I have eaten so many candies I didn’t want, but now I am learning to say “oh yes, thank you” and eat the damn candy, just like I would with my own children. She never had a mother to give a crayon drawing or a craft. This is her life, the child who has nothing can only think to share what she has to bring joy to others. This was a lesson I had not prepared for.
On the third day, I took her to the ocean. Her smile started to emerge. She walked in the sand and held the snails. She took photos with my camera. She laughed, and used the translator app for more than just the essentials. The third day she started to really relax.
As I tucked her in on the third night I asked her: “What was it like to travel to America?”
She said: “I was not scared or anything”.
I asked: “What new things did you see on your trip to America?”
She replied “Hope for the future”.
I tried not to cry. This is a real story.
If nothing else we have gotten a sweet girl out of the orphanage for the summer. We have shown her worlds she’s only seen in movies. She has learned to be part of a family and give and receive love. She has had handfuls of firsts, and we have given her, in her own words “Hope for the future”.
Is it cruel to give someone hope? Is it wrong give them something positive to drive them toward the future? Is it cruel to give her an 80% chance of being offered an adoption?
No. Its not cruel. It’s LIFESAVING. It’s life changing. You can’t buy someone hope, but for a few thousand dollars you can open your home, and you can sew the patches of hope into their hearts with the thread of love.
Hosting saves lives. Host Ukraine is moving mountains, and I’m so thankful to be on board.
Steph is a mother, nurse, and advocate. Consider helping this family by sharing, donating, and following.