You know that feeling? The one that says you're on the brink of something important. Life-changing. Sort of terrifying in that dizzying, stomach in your throat, hands-shaking way? The one that creeps through your veins on stealthy feet, scorching your blood with the one thing you crave like air?
Hope that what you want is finally within your grasp. That tomorrow really will be better than today. That your dreams aren't so far out of reach anymore.
We burn with it. Breathe with it. Secretly hold it with white-knuckled fingers because without it, we're lost.
I've hoped for many things in my life. Safety. Sanity. A first kiss. Healing. The feeling that I could hold my head high, despite myself. A marriage built to last. Children who know they are loved and cherished.
One child in particular who filled my heart for five long years before I finally looked into her gorgeous dark eyes.
I hoped for her. Longed for her. Ached so much my arms felt empty, my house felt too quiet, my family felt incomplete without her.
And in China I realized the hope I sheltered for this one little girl is a drop in the bucket for the hope needed to turn the tide for so many.
An estimated 930,000 girls currently live in orphanages across China. Many of them are classified special needs which usually means something easily fixed with surgery but which means they are the outcasts. The lepers of Chinese society. The ones who even as babies are shunned. Mocked in public. Refused love.
It's incomprehensible, but I saw it. Adults crowding around a toddler with a cleft palate, making horrible faces at her, pointing and laughing, saying she deserved her fate. Where's her hope? Where's her chance to unlock everything she was created to be?
It isn't in China.
It isn't just those classified as special needs. As I held Johanna tight and listened to one Chinese person after another tell me she would have a beautiful life, I stared across the alley from our hotel at a whorehouse whose girls all looked fourteen, if that. Those are the girls without family. Without protection. Without a dowry.
Without a future, they must buy their own with the only currency they have: their bodies.
That was Johanna's future without the hope that lit love inside of us for a child we'd never met. I cry when I think of her growing up with no one to notice how much she loves music. How she growls at her brothers and makes them laugh. How she buries her face in my shoulder and rubs against me when she's tired. How she burns with hope of her own now.
I look back at the contradictions in China. The fierce sense of family for all those privileged enough to not be left at bus stops, public parks, or orphanage steps. The blind eye turned toward the plight of those deemed pariahs for medical conditions we'd fix in a blink of an eye. The honor given to marriage. The complete acceptance of babies left in an orphanage until they're old enough to pay their way on their backs. I look, and I know I can't look away.
I can't look away from 930,000 orphaned girls who need hope. I want to see more girls light up when their forever families walk into the room. More girls whose love of music brings joy to others. More girls who don't have to hide their faces from a room full of mocking adults, but who see nothing but awe at their beauty reflected in the eyes of those who truly love them.
Bringing Johanna home has done more than change the complexion of our family. She's changed my heart by breaking it in all the right places. She's done the same for her brothers. Her grandparents. Our friends. My co-workers. Those who read my blog. One small beacon of hope, flaring to life in May of 2005, has spread into a blaze from one beautiful little girl's story.
I pray that blaze brings a home to more little girls waiting for someone to fall so in love with them, sight unseen, they'd fight any battle, overcome any obstacle, just to hold them in their arms.
It's contagious. Can you feel it?