Sticking with Love

I am enjoying the fruits of other people’s labor.

15 years ago my parents collaborated with a woman named Mia Scarlat to start an organization for children in Bucharest who needed a safe place to go. Mia had the expertise, my family had the concerned American donors, and with a very small budget the group was formed.

The group brought in a lot of children from the Roma population. Some of them were abused; some were abandoned; and a few were just extremely poor. Many of the children had low grades because teachers discriminated against them in school. Some of them suffered from physical disabilities because of the abuse they faced at home.

Fast forward to the present. The children who arrived at the foundation in its first days graduated high school and are now thriving in college. They have won national sporting, chess, and art competitions (one of them painted the above piece). They have traveled the world with national choirs and attended selective cooking schools. Some of them fell in love and married; one couple just gave birth to twins a few days ago.

The older ones, most of whom are now in their late teens and early twenties, continue to help the young ones. Very young children who have been orphaned, abandoned, or horribly abused still arrive on a regular basis.

The tiny flat where the group first started has evolved into a large house where over 35 children live in community at one time. They receive tutoring, therapy, training in music and art, food and housing, legal help, and outreach to their families when possible.

Across the sea, I am sitting here typing from my apartment in DC, exhausted from walking all over the city. Two friends from Bucharest are napping on the couch and futon, with my dog sleeping at their feet.

I have known these girls for most of my life. As someone without siblings, they are like sisters to me. But we don’t speak the same language, and we’ve only met four times. They were two of the first arrivals at Asociaţia Mia’s Children.

They have come here from Romania to visit, and we’ve been laughing about times we’ve spent together over there, on their turf. We’ve also been talking a lot about the future. One of them has a near-photographic memory and will be going off to law school soon. The other wants to be an architect after finishing high school.

Spending time with these young women has reminded me of the importance of keeping our work simple and our hearts deeply invested. Service is not a short-term trip – it’s a long-term change of heart that requires constant practice. In working with this group that my mother especially helped to build, I’ve had the chance to practice conflict resolution, forgiveness, and a lot of patience. Those things only happened over time; and while uncomfortable, they have changed me.

If you have the chance to work with an organization that offers you deep community with people very different from yourself, take it. And get yourself Skype, because wherever you go in the world, you’ll want to follow that group through its ups and downs. Stick with love for as long as you can.

Fifteen years later, it’s worth it.

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