As I stood there surrounded by all of our girls and some of the older children of PDC, I could not help but be called into the present moment. This past Friday was my birthday, usually a reason for celebration, cake, presents… but I chose to postpone that stuff to participate in the vigil for those who had lost their lives due to AIDS this past year.
Many times my work is focused on creating building blocks for the future, and if I am not vigilant, I can be drawn into ever looking to the next step instead of being here in this day. I looked around at our kids, some of them positive, some not, but all with their reasons for not living with their birth families. Sometimes I think we almost do too good of a job integrating our children. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s an amazing accomplishment the way that all the staff have created an environment where the children are in an inclusive, discrimination-free environment, and can just be kids. But within that environment, there is the danger of forgetting that many of their lives are fragile, and we need to rejoice in the seemingly mundane every day activities, because in this reality where 49% of children still die before their first birthday, our children are miraculous.
The word solidarity gets thrown around a lot down here, and with that frequent use its meaning can be diluted, but I experienced the fullness of that concept that night as this small, but rapidly growing community gathered together to support one another. I realized that I could very easily need to experience that solidarity in the future.
Sometimes I feel cheesy or trite bringing up the concept of our vision of transforming lives one child at a time. Cochabamba is a relatively modern city. I can use the free wifi at the sushi restaurant while I look onto a lovely plaza filled with tall palms and flowering trees. If I’m willing to pay the price, I can pretty much find anything here that I could get back in the States. If I weren’t paying attention, I could easily forget that I also live in a place where the leading cause of death in children under 5 is diarrhea related illness, juvenile ARV treatments are relatively new, and we’re still lacking many of the medications that would be readily available ‘back home’, and they still can’t do bone marrow transplants for leukemia patients. I have a renewed sense for the need to appreciate each child, each day, even when they drive me nuts, because their presence in this world should not be taken for granted.