Remember those days in Elementary School when, after a long summer, you would come back to school and be asked to write about your summer vacation? It’s that time of year again and, even as a grown-up, I enjoy hearing peoples’ stories about their adventures and travels of the past couple of months. Yet when people inquire about MY summer vacation, I find myself at a complete loss as to how to describe the two weeks I spent in Ghana and the feelings I have upon my return.
It is hard enough to try to describe what we do everyday in Ghana; truly it is one of those trips where “you had to be there” to remotely understand what it is like. But what is even harder is to describe how I feel when I am there, and now that I am home.
Right now, what I mostly feel is the ache in my heart that comes when I have left the children of the Good Shepherd behind yet again, for the eighth time. These children are in my thoughts everyday, and in my dreams and prayers every night... yet I know it will be many months before I see them again, and I miss them so very, very much. I miss having my named called by the children all day long...”Mother Lisa, watch me do this... Mother Lisa, please look at my cut... Mother Lisa, I need a pencil... Mother Lisa, please read to me”. From sun up til sundown, they never stop and I never tire of it. And I miss having them in my arms and in my lap, playing with my hair, tracing my veins, counting my freckles, or jiggling the fat on my arms. I miss belly-laughing at their hysterical antics, and being awed by their beautiful singing. And oh how I miss having Kwashe come up to me at the end of the day to whisper in my ear, “Mother Lisa, it’s time to put me to bed and tell me a story.” But it’s hard to explain this to people... how much I miss this loud, rambunctious, joyful group of children that live an ocean away. Hard to explain how much I yearn to hear their voices, kiss their heads, read to them, put them to bed.... and to explain that these motherless children really do think of me as their mother, and I think of them as my children. And it’s mostly hard to explain how I’m haunted by the question, “What kind of mother would leave her children behind to go back to the comforts of life in America?” As always happens when I return from Ghana, I have started thinking about adoption again, fantasizing about which four I would adopt (for some reason four is my starting number)... but I always end up stymied by how I could possibly choose just four, when the truth is that they ALL need a family, and they ALL would add such joy to my life.
Which always leads me back to the Ghana Children’s Fund... the very reason that we started this non-profit is because we decided that since we can’t possibly adopt all of these incredible children, we would instead raise money to make sure they would have the best lives possible in Ghana. And to that end, I saw firsthand this summer how much progress is being made thanks to the generosity of the GCF donors. I see how right it is that we are helping ALL of them, rather than just rescuing a few from their destitute lives. I see how their daily lives have improved dramatically, and they finally have hopes for the future. I see how the entire community has been energized by our scholarship program that will be sending 35 kids to high school this year. I see the joy that the kids get from the excursions that we take them on, whether to the beach or to the Cape Coast Castle. And the benefit that they get from having a strong, loving caregiver that GCF recently hired to watch over them. There’s no question, GCF is doing exactly what it set out to do, and hundreds of children are reaping the benefits of it. It’s ALL good.
All good...except for my empty lap and aching heart.