Yesterday, Deb asked me if I would like to go see Beyan and bring Christmas gifts to the kids. My immediate reponse: “Umm, YEAH!” (Everyone knows I can never resist a Beyan-visit!)

When we arrived at the orphanage, Sarah was the first kid to come up to us. Right away, Deb and I started oohing and aahing over how much she’d grown. Moses showed up next, followed by a giggly Koiboi. And then I saw Beyan, in his telltale red and black striped jersey, poke his head around the corner and give me a shy little smile. Immediately, I called him over to me and gave him a huge hug (I have to say—there’s nothing like a snuggly Beyan-hug! It’s one of my favorite things in the world!) He, of course, was his usual frisky, mischievous self; every time I pulled out my camera, he’d start “bluffing”, acting all serious and doing his best to hold back his smile:

Then I’d make a funny face or pull him close and poke his belly, and he’d dissolve into giggles again.

Later, as I watched him laughing and playing with his friends, I was struck (yet again) by how much of a change I see in him. When I think of the Beyan I first met in 2008, I remember a pathetic, frail, hungry and neglected little boy. I remember a boy who didn’t smile, didn’t talk, who just sat in the dirt and stared at me with the saddest eyes I think I’ve ever seen. Those eyes haunted me; those eyes are one of the reasons I came back to Liberia.

Today, the Beyan I saw had no more sadness in his eyes. His belly was full of rice, and there was a light and a joy in him that was never there before. As he handed me three pink flowers he picked off a bush, I felt like my heart was going to explode with happiness. And, when I knelt down and looked into his eyes and asked him, “Beyan, do you know that I love you?”, he smiled and nodded yes!

I know that, as much as I joke about Beyan being my “son”, and even though the kids call me his “ma”, he is not my own. I know the day will come when I will have to say goodbye, and I know it will tear my heart apart. Until then, I will cherish days like this one, moments of laughter and hugs and love. They’re what keep me here.


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