We’re not doing very well keeping our conversations reasonably quiet, and the woman in charge of our sleeper car is agitated. She looks down the hallway every few minutes and tries to hush us. We are momentarily less noisy, but quickly our talk and laughter rise to the same unacceptable level. We are spilling out into the hallway and changing rooms often to join other groups. We are not trying to be disrespectful and we’re not sure if anyone else is within earshot of our joyous ruckus anyway. Many things in Russian culture are new to us, including customs and behavior on passenger trains.
A short six hours ago we left the orphanage. This is the surreal part of the journey. Until we begin the final walk down the hallway to the series of heavily dented thick metal doors that serve as the main entrance to the large institutional building that can house more than 100 orphans, life during this week in our Russian home consists of a nonstop series of activities and assemblies and performances and quiet times with the children. We are a window into a part of life that they need to know, one in which they were created, each with their unique talents and personalities perfectly fit for a purpose that they must find. We are not here to give them answers because we do not have them. It is pure coincidence that they are who they are, shaped by a hand far beyond our understanding.
Love comes in many forms. Our basic instincts equip us to survive, but love is not necessary to survive. Love brings happiness and comfort, hope and joy, dreams and confidence. Without love, life is mechanical. For some of us, it has taken our entire lives to learn how to begin to love selflessly. No amount of time will bring us the answers to what has just happened over the past seven days. Witnessing love in its rawest form is more than anyone will ever be able to comprehend, but we try to recall events and occurrences that happened with improbable regularity. We continue making our way to the yet unseen children and caregivers lining our way from outside the front door, down the long icy walkway to our waiting bus. And then we are out into the snowy cold and gray day. Our weary team of travelers and interpreters makes slow progress as we speak with each and every person, adult and child, caregiver and student, each and every one now part of our large family. We notice no one missing this time, even the older ones are celebrating the time we shared with them and the dramatic changes in all of our lives over the relatively short time together. Handshakes are no longer desired, but heartfelt hugs and heartfelt words. There is no doubt about the intersection in our lives now, not by any of us present in our Slobodskoy home.
Language and nationality have no hold on a person’s soul. Our spirit to go out into the world and live our lives is undeniable. Our choice to travel halfway around the world to Slobodskoy is a testament to free will. It is our way of telling the children and their caregivers and our interpreters and translators and the charities that support this whole journey that without all of our conscious decisions to do something, there might be nothing. Not that nothing would happen, but the chance for the thing to happen that needs to happen cannot occur because we did not allow it to happen. All of us are making this decision, not just the ones traveling from America to Slobodskoy, but everyone involved, even the children themselves.