A recent orphanage volunteer in Cuenca shared some her thoughts at the end of her service. Read one for her advice to others wanting to be an orphanage volunteer.
“So, you want to go to Ecuador, do you? Well, let me just tell you right now that this whole falling in love with orphans thing is not for the faint of heart. Yes, it’s all it’s cracked up to be, but it’s anything but easy. There will be days where you’ll feel like God has given you a glimpse of heaven and then there will be other days where you’ll find a kid feasting on the brittle remains of a beetle he found in the corner.
And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Most days you’ll come home garnished with so many varieties of snot that you’ll feel like you have more in common with a petri dish than you do with your former self. Almost every day there will be screaming, crying, blatant disobedience, splattered soup, and violent bowel explosions that will always, always strike without warming.
And, just as surely as the sun will rise, there will be diapers. Many, many diapers. But all of this is not what I’m trying to tell you. What I’m trying to tell you is that when all of this comes (and come it will) there is one very important thing you must remember: This is the stuff love is made of.
Reading that may come as a shock to those of you who believe in a love made from roses, chocolates, and diamond rings, but just trust me when I say that the path to love is paved with diapers. It may sound strange, but what I mean is that although it may be hard to believe in the beginning, through every bit of drudgery you’re going to be falling in love.
Then one day, somewhere between playing wheelchair soccer at the park and kids draping themselves all over you like ornaments on a Christmas tree, you’re going to melt. Maybe it’ll happen when they slip their hand into yours or laugh at your joke for the first time. Or maybe in the middle of a sloppy hug or after a sticky kiss that warms you clear to your bones.
And once your heart melts, you’re really sunk. You’ll start seeing the kids in the faces of people on the street. You’ll tell your family about them. You’ll dream about them. No matter what you’ll do or where you’ll go, they’ll be there. They’ll be woven into every conversation and written across every memory you’ll make in this beautiful country, and all of it will make you love them even more.
Gradually you’ll find yourself spending extra time with them beyond your shift, watching soccer games or getting cozy for a movie night. And if the movie is about orphans, don’t be surprised if it hits you in the feels like a freight train. (There are a lot of movies about orphans—Aladdin, Annie, Harry Potter, Nacho Libre, Meet the Robinsons, Despicable Me—so prepare yourself.) You’ll start saving squiggly drawings and speaking in silly voices and saying the same Spanish commands over and over and over again. You’ll feel yourself going through withdrawals if you go 24 hours without tickling someone, and the first time someone calls you “mommy” your heart will be so full that it will take every fiber of your self-composure not to sink to the floor and cry louder than they do.
If you’re lucky, you’ll watch some of them get adopted, and then realize you’re a terrible person because you have mixed feelings about it. If only you could have more time with them, you’ll wish. But more time with them will never be enough. Once you’ve had time with them, you’ll never stop wishing for more of it. It’s not a fair fight. No matter how much you give these kids, they’ll always give you more. And as if that wasn’t enough, eventually you’ll come to the point where you’ll look into their eyes and what you see will show you that even though most of them can’t even hold their own toothbrush, it’s actually them who have been helping you all along.
This whole falling in love with orphans thing is one of the best things that will ever happen to you. It’s exhausting, wonderful, and it’s going to break your heart. I guarantee it. But do you know what? I’ve learned it’s not so bad to be broken. All of the best hearts are.