When I first started work in Kabokweni, Sweetness was shy and would not approach me willingly. She is too solemn for one so small and often stares at her feet rather than respond when I try to talk to her. Sometimes I pick her up whether she acknowledges me or not and hold her close. She doesn’t fight, but lays passive in my arms and keeps her head down. I feel the hard, roundness of her stomach. She looks like a pregnant toddler, but I know that this is often caused by malnutrition.
Yesterday, I was playing a game with about fifty of the kids. They were being loud and acting more rambunctious than normal, but still for the most part good-natured. There was a lot of noise, that amazing crescendo unique to children and, while I was laughing and yelling along with the rest of them, organizing a game was fast becoming impossible. And in that moment of chaos, I felt tiny arms encircle my leg and a small body pressed itself close to me. This alone was not unusual, but as I glanced down and saw Sweetness, her cheek resting on my thigh her eyes raised to me, I felt near tears. She stayed glued to me the rest of the day and I let her cling all she wanted. Or maybe it was she who let me cling.
|From South Africa|