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

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