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Author: admin, 11.07.2014. Category: The Power Of Attraction

A green-eyed child in torn shorts asked for the gum from my mouth as I waited at customs in Tirana, Albania. Since a child born out of wedlock was not accepted in this country, and “no man raises another man’s child,” we were told the orphanages were black holes where babies and children were warehoused.
That next morning four of us left for the state orphanage in Skodra, near the Adriatic Sea. We wore donated T-shirts, announcing a 5K race in Chicago that had been run six months earlier. I passed through the door of the first room into silence and saw babies with clubfeet, cleft palates, hydrocephalus, impetigo, ringworm, crossed eyes, and missing limbs. Albania Day Fourteen She follows the winding path from the state orphanage to the Adriatic Sea, which is clotted with oil on its Eastern shore.
At an orientation we were told that women were expected to wear long skirts and cover their bodies carefully in this Muslim culture.
In the bottom of my bag were packets of vegetable and flower seeds, an earth ball marble from my niece, and a picture of my family. We were greeted at the door of the building where we would stay, by a pubescent guard cradling a Russian AK 47.
We were told to wear the T-shirts over our clothing whenever we were in an orphanage and might have physical contact. How could I assess, hope for contributions from the United States, and picture a new clean orphanage in the twilight of this room—more than forty iron cribs, and no crying. The music box played, “It’s a Small World.” When I walked down the stairs back into the bright sunlight, a reporter from our Michigan news station began to question me with a television camera rolling.

As I made these calls and wrote letters from my home, where the water always flows and sunlight and music fill the rooms, I remembered Agim. A boy passes and holds up a fistful of writhing eels, a Medusa head, like the eel they ate the night before, while a blind guitarist played and fried eel was offered, followed by fig cake studded with fly legs.
To know that there are countless children in such desperate need of help and to bear witness to your courage and kindness is truly an inspiration. My black skirt dragged on the ground as I bent to give the green-eyed boy, who did not look old enough to be alone, gum from my backpack. We could then leave the “disposable” T-shirts behind when we left and know they would be used. Later the fifteen-minute segment they fashioned was shown on local television and used to solicit funds to build and maintain new group homes for the children, as well as train staff.
Today the smell of the sea, the touch of a blanket, an offer of chewing gum, a basket of fruit, the warmth of a shower, the brush of a hand, a child in my arms, all take me back to the melody of that music box, and that brown-eyed boy who raised his hands to me. Because the road to Skodra passed over a ravine, they had walked a rope-hung bridge one by one to get to that State Dinner.
You are a living example of loving service and your story is an eloquent testimony to the fact that one person can make a big difference.
At the embassy, machine gun-carrying guards stood at attention near each corner of the structure, eight other armed men circled that building at all times. As we climbed the stairs to that second-floor orphanage and left the dusty street, the sunshine, and the salty smell of the sea behind, sunlight struggled through a broken window and touched a hole in the floor next to the landing. His eyes met mine, but when I came near he turned away to the peeling green wall beside his crib.

I did wipe away tears that day as I looked again at the hillside where the shepherd now slept under a fig tree surrounded by his sheep.
Several of us were involved in planning these new group homes, and I felt great joy when I returned two years later to help move the children into their new homes. It was a time of war, gunfire over the mountains in Kosovo, infants dying for lack of IV tubing— rickets, ringworm, cleft palates, crossed eyes and eels.
It held one other skirt and blouse, a notebook and pen and soap that had to double as shampoo and detergent.
We were given antibiotics and a sleeping pill by a doctor in our group that night Jan said, “Just take the antibiotic. I didn’t know yet that water was “sporadic,” which meant that it flowed only when there was rain in the mountains where cisterns gathered water for the city. Many children, some with special needs, were later placed with loving families in the United States.
The water can turn to a trickle at any time, and you will be left soapy till the next rain,” I was told later.

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