Abandoned but not Alone

China Studies Institute students posing with the children at the learning center
CSI students with the children at the learning center

I had the recent opportunity of visiting a learning center for orphans with special needs with some fellow classmates. This experience was more than I could’ve ever expected. It was really special for me in ways that are hard to describe. I was adopted from an orphanage in China as a baby, and I had physical issues as a child. This experience was personal, but I didn’t know how personally it would impact me.

I had visited my orphanage in 2009, and actually had the opportunity to meet the man who found me abandoned at the gates of the orphanage. I was very young at the time but I still knew how special the moment was for this man. As I grow older, I can’t stop thinking about that. I met the man who saved my life. I was abandoned as a newborn, my umbilical cord was simply tied off and I was wrapped up and left alone. I was adopted, grew up loved, supported, and encouraged and I came back to China. This time, I knew more about myself. This time, I could actually have a conversation with the people at my orphanage without a translator. This time, I had really grown up. This time around I had seen what could’ve been if I hadn’t been adopted and what could be because I had been adopted. This time around I wanted to love, support, and encourage someone like me.

We went to the orphanage and sat with the children while they sang songs. We danced with them, painted pictures, and played games. They were all very young. Some had physical disabilities and some had mental disabilities. They all smiled a lot. Then we smiled a lot. Happiness is so infectious, and it only takes a little to create a lot. At one point, I bent down to say hi to a child and without words, he touched my face in the gentlest way. He didn’t talk at all in fact, just touched my face softly and silently. In that moment, I felt so much. I felt for this child like this child was me, because I truly believed that this child and I were the same. From the same place, wanting the same things, and capable of doing so much.

Sitting with the children sitting around a table in the orphanage.
Sitting with the children
Painting with the children around a table in the orphanage.
Painting with the Children

The whole visit, I smiled the entire time. I could see myself in these children. Like them, I was in the care of an orphanage, and while I wasn’t there for long, it is still a part of my identity that I carry with me every day. I was taken in by an orphanage when I had no parents, and I was adopted into a wonderful, loving family —the best family a girl could ask for. Seeing these kids was like looking into another life, one that felt strangely familiar yet uncomfortable at the same time. I have imagined my life if I hadn’t been adopted, a thousand times over; I have imagined my life if my parents hadn’t abandoned me. I was filled with feelings of guilt and longing as I played with these children, who smiled and laughed and were carefree. Inside, I wondered what they are feeling. I don’t know how to say what I want to say… how to say “You are loved. You are special. You are important”, but I hope that one day, I will be able to do all this and more. I hope that one day, I will be able to look at someone like me and make them proud.

Playing with a child at the learning center visit, running under a tree.
Playing with a child at the learning center visit

Mara