Do you know that feeling you get when you are obviously part of something much bigger than yourself? Well, we certainly experienced that last night.
Ben and I started out the day by picking up some soda and ice cream for the party with the kids. We were getting ready to head out for lunch with the kids when Ninoska called. She told us not to come for lunch, explaining they had to work during that time to make up for leaving early for our party. This news was quite sad and reminded us that, in order to be kids yesterday evening, they had to be adults for the day.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that the kids and their moms called me at least 8 times yesterday to confirm the time and place we would come to pick them up for the party. Being so used to the ‘yes is a yes and a no is a no’ society in the
Ben and I were nervous heading over to meet them. Would they be able to come? Would they even be there? How would we get the 5-20 people in taxis to my house? We didn’t exactly have the luxury of having printed out Google maps directions to give to taxi drivers. Would my apartment still be standing afterwards?
As soon as the kids spotted us they ran up to us, even more excited and energetic than usual. We immediately noticed they were all bathed and wearing clean clothes, many of which I recognized as those previously donated by you all. Their hair was combed and gelled. Even the moms and the grandma were wearing clean clothes. A few of the kids were still in their ‘work’ clothes, begging for money when we arrived. When they saw us they ran off and changed into their clean clothes, obviously overflowing with excitement. It was so precious to see how joyous the kids were just to be wearing their special, clean, new clothes. I think they would have been happy just to hang out on the street corner in their outfits.
With help from Ben and Carlos we managed to squeeze 20 of us into 3 cabs, caravanning to the apartment. Sitting upfront I was overjoyed to look into the rear-view mirror and see their smiling faces.
Ben and I decided it would be best to keep the kids outside as much as possible, thus giving them room to run around and also limiting the amount of damage to the apartment. We herded the kids into the pool area and then watched the inevitable happen when a group of 13 kids encounter a pool. Within minutes the boys were stripped down to their underwear and splashing around the water. The girls soon jumped in wearing my t-shirts, shorts and, when I ran out, boxers. The kids were out-of-control crazy, but in the best way possible. They were SO excited and having SO much fun that they couldn’t help but be loud, run around like madmen, and generally cause trouble.
I planned on ordering a bunch of pizza, thinking that the kids would welcome a change from the fried chicken and fries we have every day. Upon mentioning this idea I soon found out the extent of the kids’ love for the pollo frito, as they passionately rejected my initiative, screaming, “Pollo! Pollo!” So, Carlos made the call to Tip-Top and about 45 minutes later the moto-delivery man brought unbridled joy in the form of greasy comfort food.
The mothers assisted greatly in maintaining order while Ben and I dished out the food. Unlike our daily lunch outings, the kids peacefully and quietly stayed in line and waited for their chicken. I’m not sure how they can eat, and actually enjoy, fried chicken every day, but I guess when you don’t know what or when the next meal is going to be you take what you can get.
After dinner the kids ran around and dipped their feet in the pool. Thankfully they didn’t get all the way back in the water. They did, however, find repeated trips into the house to ‘go to the bathroom’ quite fun. I admit that I have a long way to go before I am ready for fatherhood but even I eventually picked up on their ploy.
One of the highlights of the evening was celebrating the grandmother’s birthday. When the kids told us it was her birthday Ben had the great idea of running to the store to pick up a gift. He came back with a beautiful flower arrangement, giving it to her as all of the kids sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to her. It looked like she was about to cry.
Carlos was kind enough to call some taxis to take everyone home. It took about 10 minutes to say goodbye, as we had to peel kids, moms, and a grandmother off us. As they were leaving we gave each kid a bag of clothes, books, candy, and toys; all donated by you. Since they were leaving just then they didn’t open the gifts until they got home. Ninoska called us about 30 minutes later, thanking us profusely for the gifts. She especially enjoyed the Spanish-English Bible.
Here is a story which I think speaks volumes about the character of these kids: After everyone left we noticed a couple of coins we had left out on the table from before the party. Knowing their situation, how strong must the temptation to take them must have been? Every kid walked by that table multiple times, often without us around, yet they didn’t do it. I was especially moved when I thought back how upset one girl, Aura, was when she lost 6 Cords (30 cents) while changing. How hard do you think it was for her to walk by that money?
The whole evening was better than I could have ever expected it to be. Sure, the party brought forth the expected frustrations and difficulties inherent with hosting 13 street kids for a pool party, but they are nothing that a mop and a bucket of soap can’t clean up.
I know as soon as the taxis pulled out of my neighborhood last night the kids returned to their unthinkably difficult lives. I realize that they merely played the part of Cinderella for the night and that they were back to washing car windshields this morning. I think that last night, though, is a memory that they will have forever. For a night they were not street kids that get laughed at, cursed at, and looked down upon every day. They were just kids; splashing around in the pool, eating fried chicken, and going in groups of girls to the bathroom to do their hair.
Being a part of the party last night was such an honor and a privilege. I am so thankful that God decided to involve me in his work. The party was yet another way that God showed me the blessings that come with service. I thought I would be giving of myself last night by hosting the kids. I thought that I would be the one who gave the blessing to the kids. Ever since the kids left last night I have been overwhelmed with gratitude. I am so thankful to have these kids in my life, and especially for what we were able to do last night. I was immensely blessed by the kids last night, and can only say “thank you” to them and God for allowing it to happen.