Ilya

The thing about working with and for orphaned children, is that sometimes you lose sight of what’s at stake. In the middle of seeking out donations and hosting Russian dinners, washing cars and searching for shoes and candy on clearance… you sometimes have to stop and remember why you have chosen to do what you are doing.

You can be right in the middle of it: surrounded by children and their smiles, tears, and stories of loss and hope.

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… And still forget what you’re doing and why.

During our Christmas trip, one of our volunteers had a moment that brought the truth of what we do in Belarus back to our hearts.

“What’s your name?” he asked, crouching down to smile at a sweet little boy.

“Ilya,” the child replied happily, unaware that his answer would bring tears to the eyes of the man in front of him.

… How do you respond to a child that has lost everything and everyone, while you are content and satisfied with your own comfortable existence? But more importantly, how do you reply to a child that carries the same name that you chose for your own son? The son who is home, safe and warm with his mother? The son who will never lack love nor nourishment nor comfort?

But there are thousands of Ilyas out there. And thousands more Igors, Yanas, Sashas, and Vovas. Sometimes we forget their stories, their tears, and the pain that they have lived through.

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But sometimes all it takes is a name, spoken by an unsuspecting child, to bring meaning back to the mission.

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