Today we went back to the orphanage where Anna lived for a farewell party with some other adoptive families. I had an errand to run so I went separately and got there a half hour or so before the main group. Sister L. showed me to the official waiting room but I asked if I could roam the courtyard with the children instead. "As you wish," she said and she disappeared to take care of other demands. I had a crowd around me but I eventually made it to some stone steps leading into a building. I sat down in the bright sunshine. The kids closest to me sat down as well pressing against my side and back as well as sitting at my feet. The younger kids would hold my hands or gently rub their hands on my arms to see what white skin felt like. The outer group of kids had to stand and was generally comprised of older kids. I passed the time trying to learn names and my pronunciations were often atrocious. When I would finally get a name right, the child would quickly raise and lower their eyebrows in a sign of approval. The kids with better English skills played the role of translators. They would ask me a question, I would respond, and then they would tell the others in Amharic what I had said.
A little later I was walking again with the perpetual but ever changing crowd around me. I felt a child's hand come into mine as had happened a hundred times already, but I did not look down until I had finished trying to learn another name. When I looked down there was a young girl about five looking back up at me. Her face was sad and her large brown eyes were soft and a little moist. I bent over to ask her what her name was, but she spoke first. "I don't have a family," she said softly not averting her eyes from mine.
I was taken aback. In all the fun I was having with the children I had forgotten that Sister L. had told me that all of the kids know who has a family and who does not. There are the "haves" and the "have nots". Here I was looking into the eyes of a have not. I put my other hand on her shoulder and said, "Soon. Soon."
But will it be soon for her? How do I know? Of the 170 children at K.M. not all will get a family soon and some will not get a family at all. I witnessed today a bright handsome older boy saying goodbye to two good friends – something that he has done too many times before and now he is again left behind. I also spent time with a beautiful girl who had strong English skills. She is now a forever have not. She was passed over too many times during her last eight to nine years at K.M. and now she is 16 and no longer adoptable. Since she had nowhere to go, Sister L. transitioned her from being a child at K.M. to being a worker at K.M.
And so it is at K.M., and at other orphanages in Addis Ababa, and in other cities in Ethiopia, and in other countries in sub-Saharan Africa and around the world. Millions of children will go to bed tonight in a crowded room in an orphanage. When they lay their heads down they will be acutely aware of the haves and the have nots in the room with them. And the have nots will say softly to themselves, "I don't have a family."