Friday I walked over to the Transition Home for the weekly outing to the soccer field. This week, I wasn't sure if I was up for the brutal 9AM soccer game, but thought I would stop by to see the kids off. Immediately, I was blinded by a mass of yellow and my ears were overcome with "Lulu look! Lulu look!" (my nickname).Their smiles were huge and faces glowing as they showed me their new uniforms with a touch of pride like "look at me now!"
"Where? Where did you get these??" I kept inquiring attempting to find an answer. Not long after, I heard "Us, we got them." I had no idea our staff would be purchasing these for the kids. The children had been asking for them for months and I was hopeful we could obtain some at a thrift store in the US. But they got brand new ones! I felt my heart smile like I had just won the lottery (all social workers want this in life).
They were overjoyed to have jerseys and new tennis shoes so they could feel like a real "football" team. My eyebrows were a bit tired by child 40, "wow koinjo koinjo!" (wow- awesome, beautiful, cool!). But each child deserved to receive individual encouragement and a "Wow, what a stud!"
That Friday, the children stood a little taller. You see, soccer is really important here in Ethiopia. On days we travel to the field, they notice the other kids training and doing laps in their uniforms. As they gaze at the other children, I can often tell this is something for which they long: to be part of a team, to be like the other kids. While they may not all go home to a mommy and daddy every night or traditionally celebrate Mother's & Father's Day, they have a large number of people surrounding them who care abundantly about them. And what I've learned in life is family isn't always determined by blood, rather family means those who love and care for you in a unconditional and sacrificial way. Those who build you up and are your personal cheerleaders. And I can say with great confidence, that each of the kids has a team of cheerleaders behind them.
When I thought my heart couldn't smile any more that Friday, I was shocked at arrival to the field to see some of my favorite toddlers waddling around in oversized uniforms. I couldn't help but to giggle as I picked them up and said "koinjo koinjo!"