Saturday, August 24, 2013

Dear Virginia

Dear Virginia,

When I first saw you, sitting on the steps watching everyone come in, I knew that you were different from the other kids. I don't know what the medical diagnosis would have been for you, but it really doesn't matter. You were labeled with "special needs" and that's all I really knew. 

When I first saw you, I knew you were different.

I need to make a confession, ok? I didn't really want to get to know you or spend any time with you. It was for really selfish reasons too, and I feel like a horrible person for ever thinking that about a beautiful little girl like you. But I have to be honest. I didn't want to be around you because by seeing you and your physical limitations, I'm forced to remember my own limitations. 

I have to be honest.

There was that one afternoon when the team members and I had run out of paint and were sitting around the room waiting for more, and you came over to play with us. You grabbed the stack of orange safety cones from the game shelf and put them on your head like a pointed hat. Then you gave each one of us a cone to put on our heads. When we were all wearing our "hats", you threw your head back and laughed.
That laugh was one of the sweetest sounds I've ever heard. 

You repeated that process several times — taking our cones back and then giving them to us to wear on our heads. Laughing each time. We were all laughing too. It was silly, to wear cones on our heads, but we all did because that was what made you laugh and we wanted to hear that. We wanted to see you having fun and I think I could speak for all of us when I say we were glad that you were having fun with us. 

We wanted to see you having fun.

Then you did something that I didn't expect. You put the cones down and walked over to our translator. You paused for a second and then you wrapped your arms around his neck and gave him a hug. Then you gave our team leader next to me a hug. Several hugs in a row, actually, as your tiny hands rubbed his head so tenderly and then you even kissed his forehead.

You gave him a hug.

I have another confession to make. I really wanted a hug from you and I prayed that I would get one. I thought that, maybe because of not wanting to spend any time with you earlier, you wouldn't want to hug me. That somehow you would know how uncomfortable I was around you because of my own demons that I needed to face. I asked God to forgive me for not wanting to be around you and I asked him to make me more like you, with your unashamed love for others.

I want to be like you, Virginia.

Right in the middle of my prayer, you came over, knelt in front of me and put your hands on my face. We just sat there like that, for a moment, before you pushed my bangs off my forehead and then hugged me tight. I remember thinking that you were a lot thinner than I first realized as I put my arms around your waist. I felt your fingers play with my ponytail before you pulled pack to look at me. You smiled, and then you grabbed the orange cones again to play with.
You put your hands on my face.

I don't know how to put into words the emotions that I'm trying to convey. There just… aren't any to describe that moment, those feelings. I was ashamed of myself, for not wanting to be around you, and I was humbled by your example. Virginia means "pure" and you live that out in your interactions with others. Your love was so pure, so genuine, so kind, and so true. You weren't hindered by society's expectations and people's own comfort zones. You weren't afraid to go touch someone you had never met before and give them a hug. 

You weren't afraid to love.

I've gotten so good at pretending that I'm "normal", that even I can sometimes forget that I'm not. I can't pretend when I'm with you, because I see so much of myself in you. I see a little girl who wants to be like everybody else but can't, I see your pain at having to miss out because you weren't able to keep up, I understand the hurt when you're made fun of or mocked for being different, and I know the tears you've cried because I've cried them too.

I can't pretend when I'm with you. 

There's no such thing as "normal", Virginia. You're perfect, just the way you are because you're made in the image of a perfect God. He doesn't make mistakes and you are NOT a mistake. I want to repeat that over and over again until I know that you believe it. God has a purpose for you, a plan for your life and it's a beautiful plan. You're going to bring God glory in a way that only you can do. No one else will be able to do what you can do.

You are not a mistake.

And I'm not either. 

Thank you for reminding me of that. Thank you for loving me when I wasn't willing to love you. Thank you for leaving a handprint on my heart. Thank you for being YOU.

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