Not too far from where I live in Sri Lanka is a home for children and adults with physical and cognitive impairments run by the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa’s sisters. “House of love” or Daya Nivasa gives a loving home to around 100 young girls and women. As part of my second class challenge in girl guiding in 2008 I chose this place to spend a few hours each week for three months. The first day I went there, I was not comfortable at all. The second day, I knew a few people by name and in a month, I was already looking forward to Saturday. The hours I spent there lengthened and soon I was not only spending my mornings there, but also my evenings, and past three months I was still visiting them. After a few more months, school got in the way and I couldn’t go there all that often.
Last summer when I went back home, I went back to visit them seven years after my last visit. I’m writing to share with you all a story about a girl I met. A girl called Malika.
I was assigned to the Joy class, and the moment I entered, there was a girl who caught my eye. She smiled and walked up to me, took my hand in hers and touched me as if afraid of my skin. Being not too good with my words, I only smiled back. She lead me to a poster and pointed at her picture on it, and pointed back at herself and said “Malika”. That’s when I learnt her name, and that’s when I learnt that it’s never too hard to love yourself.
The task for the day was painting, and I, along with the kind hearted teacher, and the two volunteers from Norway and USA helped the girls out with it. Their fingers were stained with paint of all colours and their aprons a mess of wet paint. I had a couple of spots of paint on my fingers, if that counts. The girls formed a line to wash their hands once they were done painting and I stood at the back watching them. The same girl Malika walked up to me, took me by my hand again and excused us to the front of the line. Then she asked me to wash my hands before she took her place at the back of the queue. That was when I learnt that you can always love someone, or put someone ahead of you, even if you don’t know who they are. There is always space for love in life.
Not too long after that, she sat in front of me and asked me a couple of questions that I will never forget in my life. She asked me if I have a mother, and then she asked me if I have a father. When I replied yes to both she told me she doesn’t have either. Truth was like a brick wall on my face and she said it in a way that left me speechless. Then she told me what happened, how her family did not love her. That was when I learnt there were so many more things I could be thankful for. That’s when I learnt that life was handed over easy to most of us, and we appreciate it a lot less than we should.
I was about to leave, talking to the Sisters who are some of the kindest people I’ve seen, and I was expressing my gratitude to them for letting me be experience love first hand when the girl walked up to me again. She hugged me from the side and told me not to go. That’s when I learnt that you could mean nothing to someone, but you could also mean everything to someone else. You could be destroyed, but you always had it in you to stay strong. You don’t have to be loved to love someone back.
I took home a lot more than I took with me that day. I leanrt more about life from them than I could ever teach myself. We spend so much time caught up in the hustle and the bustle of the world that we’ve forgotten how to love someone and the peace and silence it brings to us. Maybe we could all use some time with the people who deserve our love; with people like Malika who teach us time and again that love and humanity are the only things that keep us alive.