By Pam Mueller
It wasn’t a typical Saturday morning.
We woke up early to make the 2 hour drive to meet some friends for a hike. I was excited as we gathered water bottles, snacks, sunscreen and hiking shoes.
It wasn’t a typical hike, either.
We had dreamed of this hike for two years. A hike with some very special teenagers and their Dads. It was our first hike in India.
The kids were so excited when we arrived at their home, their energy like an electric hum. They filled backpacks with waters, sodas, and chips. Girls made final decisions on which shoes to wear, and we were off.
The hike looked moderately challenging. The trail led us up the side of a high, grassy hill through a few trees and rocky fields. I enjoyed the teenage laughter and chatter all around me, mostly in Hindi, but sometimes in English.
When we came to tricky places on the hike, and when we stopped for water breaks, I noticed how the kids helped each other. Boys helped girls up over rocks, everyone shared snacks and waters and duties of carrying backpacks. Maybe that’s not so shocking in a group of teenagers.
But then they helped me. I stopped once in a shady spot because I felt nauseous. Maybe it was the heat or dehydration or jetlag, or a combination of all three. The boys kept asking me, “Auntie, are you OK? Auntie, do you need help?”
Determination and some pride kept me going. I had done hikes much harder than this one, and we were here to take the kids on an adventure! But determination and pride couldn’t stop the waves of nausea and dizziness that soon overtook me. Not wanting to be “that girl” on the hike, I quietly sat down on some rocks and told the kids to go on up without me. I could see the top and knew I would be OK until they came back down.
But the boys would have none of that. A couple of them stayed with me while one ran up to the top of the hill to tell my husband (who was helping to lead the group) that I needed help. Maybe that’s not shocking in a group of teenagers when they have been trained well by their parents.
But these aren’t typical teenagers.
These teenagers live at the India LIFE Center, a home for kids who have lost their parents.. The kids have seen grief and hardship that I can’t imagine. Some lived on the streets before, where survival was not the stuff of video games.
I think that’s why their kindness made such an impact on me. These kids have gone from utter loss to having the capacity to care for me in my time of need. This capacity doesn’t come from living in a nice building or a being in a “program.” They learned to care this way by living in a family.
The LIFE Center family is not a typical family. And it’s not a perfect family. But in this family, kids see Dads and Moms caring for each other. They have the security of being loved and known. They are fed, clothed, stay in school and get an education. They have a future where once they had no hope for the future.
No, it wasn’t a typical hike and it wasn’t a typical Saturday. I’m glad for that, even though I didn’t make it to the top of the hill!
“Father to the fatherless, defender of widows–this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families…” Psalm 68:5-6
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