Monthly Archives: August 2007

One is the loneliest Number

Difficult to not feel ashamed.

That’s the painful part of what goes through your mind as you watch the vans pull away. Not shame for what you have—who you have—but for what you have never done, or have not done enough of. My 25 years have been spent in the lush splendor that is the American lifestyle, and the orphans are riding a bus back to the relative loneliness inside of them. For a week, they have lived outside of that ache, warmed by the touch and smiles of Chinese and American volunteers committed to loving them at any cost. But a week, what is it, when I will spend the next fifty between the comfortable lines I have drawn for myself at home? What have I done? As the months stretch out into next year, then the next, will a week matter?

This morning, during breakfast, I pulled out my journal and wrote what I saw as I watched the hard shell of my most difficult child, Jake, melt and fall away.

“We’re eating our last meal together. John just told me he will always remember me. Jake looked sad; he was not talkative, as usual. I asked my translator if Jake was sad, and he said he didn’t think so. But, as we both watched the small boy slowly eat his food, we saw a lone teardrop roll to the tip of his nose.”

It is in such moments when your own grief surfaces.

But then again, you know.

You know a week is a week—no more, but also no less. Five days of joy Jake would not have had otherwise.

You know it means more to the kids than you can understand. Because they said so. Looked you in the eye and said the words in beautiful, tonal Mandarin: “I will never forget you.”

You know it is right. You know you have obeyed the One who sent you here in the first place, if only for two weeks.

And you hope that they have seen a fingerprint on you that they will recognize on someone else years from now—something intangible, yet unmistakable.

All these things swirl around for a mixture of emotions, bitter and sweet—the bitter more instructive, the sweet like little tastes of heaven.

As Jake wept inside the van, my palm pressed to his cheek, I thought, “How could I not come back next year?” I sense a feeling of accomplishment, but also that what I have done is not nearly enough.

Bringing the orphans hope has become a lifelong calling, even if I can only answer for a few weeks every year.

They are the weeks I will cherish the most.

Thank You Translators!

For all the time, money and preparation that was put into the four weeks of camp this summer, one thing is clear: we could not have done it without our translators. Language barriers make it difficult enough to visit a foreign country, let alone try to bond with a child you have never met.

I have found that some language is universal: hand gestures, tickling, smiles, laughs. Even games such as rock-paper-scissors, duck duck goose, and go fish span cultures. But specific communication is impossible without translation.

And for that, we want to say a special thank you to the translators who have volunteered their time to be with us. Many have come as much as 12 hours by train to join us in Beijing. They are a vital part of the team and we are grateful for their support.

Editor’s note: Indeed, the translators make the summer camp possible. They spend more time with the orphans than the American volunteers—up to 16 hours a day, seeing to it that the kids eat, shower, sleep, behave and have a good time. We have witnessed the love that our Chinese translators have for the children, the intelligence they possess and the dedication that, frankly, inspires us to work harder and love more deeply. Thank you, translators, for your tireless work and friendship. We love you all.

— Patti Diaz


On Tuesday, we visited a royal park in Beijing. The rain that had threatened all morning became a reality, dampening what would have been a glorious afternoon of walking and enjoying the sights. My family group had only one umbrella among the four of us. It was a wet experience.

My translator purchased several lotus flower centers, as they contain edible seeds. We peeled them on the bus back and my buddy, Lily, started to break apart the stem. Inside, translucent fibers kept the parts together. My translator explained to us that the action was significant. The lotus stem symbolizes something broken, yet still connected.

Lily continued to break the stem and finger the threads. As I watched her, I wondered if the symbolism meant something to her. Does she feel a mental or emotional connection to her parents? They are not only responsible for her existence, but also for the growing up process. A child’s need for love and affirmation does not disappear simply because her parents do.

The fibers of the stem reminded me of a spider web. It may be nearly invisible, but it’s strong and sticky and doesn’t go away. The idea the plant represents—being separated but still attached—applies to all of us, really. There is an eternal thread that connects us to Someone Else. Physically, we are not all orphans, but spiritually, we are. I am thankful for that adoption, open to everyone, which can make us whole again.

— Patti Diaz

Breaking Down the Walls

On the second day of our weeklong camp, Bring Me Hope volunteers and staff took 90 orphans to see the Great Wall. This imposing structure was built to keep northern invaders out of China. Although the country no longer needs this physical defense, I believe that the legacy of the wall lives on among its people.

In the same way that a nation erects defenses because it does not trust its neighbors, many of the children who have come to camp have presented barricades. They have built their own walls to keep people out.

These children were the most difficult to love this last week. They consistently rejected attempts at friendship. The closer you got, the farther away they wanted to be. They probably didn’t intend to hurt us, but it was impossible not to take their reactions personally.

Another sad thing about walls is how they keep people in as well as out. Camp is not just about swimming in the pool, playing games, or making crafts. It is about forming relationships. These are what give meaning to the experience. The kids who guarded their emotions denied themselves that key element.

As a team, and as individuals, we were committed to breaking down those walls in the week we had. Some experienced little discernible progress with their buddies. Others needed only a few hours. The height and depth and number of walls varied in each child.

But by Friday, one thing ws clear: in some way or another, whether big or small, all the children had begun demolition. Many of those who had presented the toughest exterior wrote goodbye letters that brought tears to their American buddies’ eyes.

As we packed around the three departing buses, every window revealed a tear streaked face. While it was sad beyond words, it was also a victory. The orphans were allowing themselves to feel again. It was a healing hurt.

— Patti Diaz