I don't know what stigmas come to mind when you think of the word "orphan" but honestly, some pretty negative words originally came to my mind.
That is, until I stepped foot onto the grounds of The Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission (The Farm). These kids were joyful, well cared for, in community, educated, and so very loved.
I met a young girl named Lisa the first day the team arrived and we immediately connected.
She reminded me of my cousin, Gracie, who is around the same age.
The more I got to know Lisa and talked with her, the less different our Western culture became from her Eastern culture and the more I began to see that the Indian Orphanage she as living in was her giant family.
Both Lisa and my cousin Gracie wake up every day and go to school – Lisa wakes up to a rooster and worship music, Gracie wakes up to an alarm.
They both get ready and travel to school – Lisa walks to school with a great send off and 'I love yous' by the adults running the farm, while Gracie rides in a car driven by her mom or dad.
They both have insecurities – Lisa about her light eyes and Gracie about her eyebrows.
They both do chores around their home, they both eat meals with their family, they both love pop-culture, reading, science, and want to go to college. They both get embarrassed when I take their photo, but also love to pose for the camera. They both have a family and are loved so strongly by those families.
Here's the thing – they're not that different, Gracie and Lisa.
I hated that this truth shocked me but it did and now I want people to know and learn what I had the privilege to learn. Lisa and Gracie aren't that different, orphans aren't that different from the kids you see in your family or community.
They're children, like yours, with dreams and goals.
Before leaving The Farm, I made sure Lisa knew how much I believed in her, how smart she was and how she could do whatever she wanted to do in life. I make sure Gracie knows it too!
Children just need someone to believe in them and voice their encouragements and beliefs. Gracie receives this from her parents and Lisa receives this from her guardians at the Farm.
I'm so glad the adults at The Farm make sure their children know how important and loved they are.
I want to challenge you to view children as children, to voice your love and belief for the ones in your life, and to broaden your view of family.