Friday, February 18, 2005

Nothing new, really.

Track has started. :)
I'm very busy with two research papers.
I'm looking for a summer job.
Ms. Greenwalt isn't coming back to RCHS next year, and I'm sad. :(
The winter formal is in a week.
I have to start looking at colleges this spring, according to my mom.
I like UNC-CH and UVA.
The trip to Chile is in 1 month.
Student Legislative Assembly-- day where we debate bills--1 week!
The yearbook is almost done!
That's about it.

I'm going to leave you with a poem that I really like.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
-J.R.R. Tolkien

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Here's my first attempt at a short story. It's called Gift of Grace. Comments are welcome!

Stepping off the small jet, our group surveyed the scene around us. We were on a mission trip in Sri Lanka after the tsunami disaster. The entire community was decimated, to the point of nonexistence.
Trees had been unanchored when their roots were washed away in the waves. Houses no longer loomed tall and proud, but lay in pieces, littering the ground. People walked along the broken roads, without shoes. Most seemed lonely and lost, as if they were sauntering through a nightmare, trying hard not to believe that this was real. Everything they owned had been swept away with the raging waters.
One local man noticed us and shouted in his native tongue. Suddenly hoards of people were rushing towards us, looks of hope in their eyes. They waved their hands and grabbed at the supplies we had for them.
My friend Jamie and I handed out bottles of water and medical kits. Everything we gave away was something I took for granted: band-aids, clean water, combs, toothpaste. These people had so little, were grateful to receive; we were so fortunate, with open hearts and an abundance to give.
We camped that night just outside a small village. In tents, with sleeping bags and rolled up sweatshirts for pillows, we would have been called rich by the people we had met during the day. The following day, we would visit a local orphanage that was established to house children who lost both parents in the devastating tsunami.
We rose early the next morning, bathing in a nearby river. We had a team meeting, where we were prepped for what we would experience. Then we gathered in a circle, held hands and I led the group in a prayer:
“Father, we come here, not to serve ourselves, but to serve You, Lord. We come that we will be humbled and more grateful for the blessings you have bestowed upon our lives. We pray for the people of Sri Lanka and of the other affected areas, that they would experience hope in You, Lord. I pray also Lord that we would be instruments of Your will, Lord, serving Your purpose. In the words of St. Francis of Assisi:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace: where there is hatred, let me sow love: where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.
Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
I continued, “Give us strength today Lord. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.”
We opened our eyes and headed off to the orphanage. The infrastructure in the country had been completely destroyed and so our van was useless. But we set off on foot, without complaint.
We arrived at the orphanage an hour later to find about two hundred children flooding the corridors and small bunking quarters. They all rushed up to us, eager to see foreigners. They began talking rapidly in their language, smiling the entire time.
One little girl stood out to me. Her hair was tangled and hung around her shoulders. Her dress was probably very nice before the tsunami, but she had been wearing it now for months. Its grungy, grayish tinge lent no contrast to her dirty face. The striking thing about her was that her skin pigment was not like that of the other children. She was very clearly Caucasian, even beneath the dust. I walked over to her, where she sat in a corner of the room.
Her knees were pulled to her chest, where her chin rested on them. As I neared her, I realized there were tears on her cheeks, washing away the dirt in crooked streaks. I waved to her from about five feet away, in an attempt to see if my presence was welcome.
“Hi,” she said quietly, sniffling. I stopped cold. She spoke English.
Trying to hide my shock, I responded, “Hi. My name’s Audrey.”
“Mine’s Grace,” she told me, avoiding eye contact. “Are you from America?” She asked, now tracing an imaginary line on her knee with her index finger.
“Yep,” I said. “I’m from North Carolina.” Her eyes found mine at the recognition of a familiar place.
“Me, too,” she said. She smiled, knowing we shared a bond. Her smile quickly faded and she looked down once more. I went over and sat down cross-legged next to her. The tears began to fall again, accompanied by quiet sobs.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, genuinely concerned.
She crawled into my lap, resting her dirty head against my chest. I stroked her hair. “Shhhh. It’s okay.”
She sat back and looked at me, wondering if she could trust me. “My mommy and daddy got washed away when the big wave came. They didn’t know how to swim. That’s why they put me in swim lessons last summer, so I would know.” She paused, awaiting a reaction. I didn’t have one.
She sighed. “They’re in Heaven now, right?”
I smiled and nodded. The wave of comfort that washed over her was apparent on her face, in her eyes. “Grace,” I said, “Were you and your parents on vacation here?”
“Nope,” she said. “They were here with the church. We were supposed to leave in February because that’s when my birthday is. I was going to have a princess party at home. I can’t wait!”
It was March. I smiled at her. “That sounds like fun.” She was satisfied and hurried off to play with the other children.
One of the caregivers came over to me. “Want to take her back with you?” She asked. I almost laughed at the idea. “I’m serious,” she told me. “There are hundreds more children who are homeless and need a place to sleep. She has a U.S. citizenship; she’s free to go back to the U.S. whenever someone takes her.”
“You mean like adopt her?” I asked, my interest mounting. At twenty-six, I was married, and had a wonderful job teaching high school.
“You would fill out adoption papers upon your return to the States. She has no living relatives, to our knowledge.” She smiled and patted my shoulder. Before she turned to walk away, she added, “A real sweet girl. She needs a real good home.”
I went through the mental checklist. My husband’s and my incomes could support a child. We had been unable but very much wanting to have children. We had an extra bedroom in our house.
Grace came running over to me, beaming. In her hand was a picture she had drawn. She held it up for me. “This is me,” she told me, pointing to the smaller figure on the page. “And this is you,” she explained, pointing to the taller figure. The two people in the picture were holding hands, and there was a heart scribbled above their heads.
“That’s a beautiful picture, honey.” She beamed all the more. “Grace, would you like to come live with me?”
“You mean in the American states?” She asked.
“Yes, sweetheart. I was wondering if you wanted to come back to North Carolina with me and live with my husband and me.”
She nodded vigorously. “Yes, yes, yes.” She leaned forward to hug me, when she suddenly stopped. “But wait. No. I can’t.” She shook her head and looked at me. “Sorry.”
“Why not, Grace?”
“Because my mommy and daddy would be sad that I called someone else mommy and daddy.”
“You don’t have to call us Mommy and Daddy. You can call us Audrey and Ben or whatever you like. We just want to give you a home and a princess party. You will go back to school and have new clothes and---”
She cut me off. “Okay, I want to then. But can we go to church?” I nodded. She hugged me and from that moment on, she followed me wherever I went, watching me closely.
Grace lives with my husband and me now. She loves her new school and had a princess party. She wakes up most nights screaming after a nightmare. The nightmares she describes to us are of people being washed away by “giant waves. They can’t swim,” she tells us. Grace loves to play at the park, but she won’t go near the lake. Her wounds will be tender for a long time, but the family we have begun to build together is a strong one. There is a lot of love in our household, and my husband and I thank God every day for the gift of Grace in our lives.