It seems to be that every week, regardless of the age group I am working with at the orphanage, one of the children will ask me to read them the book entitled: Are You My Mother? For those of you who have never read this book here is the main idea: a baby bird hatches while the mother is out finding food, falls from the nest, and then spends the duration of the book searching for his mother until he is finally returned to his nest so they can be reunited.
It is a very cute book but there is something truly depressing about reading it to a room full of orphans. Last week a group of boys brought me the book and we all crowded into a little wooden school desk to read together. It started off like any other book, but as the pages went on I had a harder and harder time focusing. I couldn’t help but wonder what the kids think about when they hear the story of this little bird- does it make them sad? Does it make them wish they had a mother? Or maybe it is just another book to them and I should just read it without thinking like this- but that is hard. I am sometimes overwhelmed with sadness when thinking about the fate of these children who I love with all of my heart but cannot take home with me. I wish so badly that they could experience the unconditional love of a family and the warmth of a mother’s arms when she hugs a child goodnight. Unfortunately these are not things I can control so I do my best to keep my composure and read it each time a child asks. This past week I had two boys in my lap and the other two snuggled up next to me when we finished the story. The book was open to a page with an image of the baby bird and his mother cuddling together in the nest and little Gilbert pointed to the picture and proclaimed, “He is now a happy baby bird and she is a happy mother bird.”
After that I started to think about how his statement presented the perfect opportunity to open a dialogue about family with the kids and perhaps initiate a selfish exploration to see how this book affects them. In the time it took me to gather my thoughts the boys were already up and headed off to the bookshelves to find our next selection. They returned a few minutes later with some obnoxious rhyming book that I don’t really care for and I knew the moment had passed. We all climbed back into the desk and read a book about farm animals rescuing a grumpy truck stuck in mud. My exaggerated animal noises were barely audible over the joyful laughter of the boys doing their best to imitate each animal like me and any lingering sadness I had from the previous book vanished. I am continually humbled and inspired by their ability to always find happiness and with smiles like this surrounding me it impossible to stay sad for long!