from Liz Hulley at On Life in St.Petersburg

When my dad and I took some kids from the orphanage out last week, the counselors whispered to us about the backgrounds of some of the kids. Well, they didn’t really whisper; it seems more accepted to talk about kids’ behavior right in front of them. But a few of these facts were more personal and they meant it for our ears only.

The kids said “Thank you very much” after the meal. Most tried, with prompting, to say it in English. And then the counselor explained what great progress that was for many of them. I hadn’t really thought about it since I see them regularly, but it really is a challenge for them to look an adult in the eye and say “Thank you.” And of course, trying it in a foreign language showed special courage.

One of the boys the counselor pointed out was new (I actually hadn’t met him yet), and she said that he (at 11 y.o.) witnessed the murder of his mother by his stepfather, perhaps over the summer. I saw how he held himself: not rudely like some of the other kids with “behavioral” problems, but like a bird, hovering at the edge of conversation with a wan smile.

Today I saw him at the orphanage and he again offered a weak smile, so I tried to reach out. “Pasha, right?” so he would know I remembered him. He nodded, but shrank back and quickly darted away. I wonder what is on his mind after all the trauma; what kinds of fears he lives with.