Friday, March 4, 2011

Tearing Down the Walls

(Rob writing)

Aaron’s Institution was bordered on all sides by walls- thick, solid walls of concrete or brick, interrupted by only three steel gates.

Even the gaps between the gate rails were solid, blocked off with translucent green panels. Fences and gates were common over there; it seemed to me that no private home could be considered complete without its fence and gate. But the Institution was different: Its walls and gates seemed more like those of a high-security prison, preventing passage, hiding from view, blocking communication, keeping secrets.

I thought a lot about those walls and gates. Whom did they benefit? From a practical, worldly point of view they made sense for everyone involved. The caretakers needed them because they kept the boys from running away too far and from being too excited by the rush of traffic. The boys needed them for their dignity, for protection against the stares of unkind onlookers. And the townspeople needed them so that they wouldn’t have to be reminded of the uncomfortable, embarrassing looks and behaviors of the boys inside.

From another point of view, however, those walls and gates were the exact opposite of what everyone needed. The caretakers needed those gates opened so that more people could come inside and help them. The boys needed those walls to come down so that they could have some measure of freedom and stimulation. And the townspeople needed to see those boys so that their compassion could be ignited by the knowledge of the Lost Boys’ suffering.

Then maybe they could understand that, under the harsh rules of the world they’ve built over there, they could just as easily have landed behind those walls themselves. Then maybe they could form a desire to end the practice of institutionalizing every child who isn’t born physically and mentally “flawless” in their eyes.

During the weekdays when we visited, one gate sometimes stood open (far from the areas where the boys spent their time). Aaron loved to stand in that gate and watch the cars and trucks go by. This was one of the privileges he enjoyed as a child singled out for adoption. Those walls concealed so much that the world outside those gates must have seemed like a secret wonderland to him. Every single detail was of great interest to him, and he would stand and watch for as long as we let him.

He was fitting images to the sounds he had heard throughout his year in that village, the sounds of passing vehicles that the walls couldn’t block out. He and all of the Lost Boys burned with curiosity about cars and trucks. The biggest event of any day was when a truck or van rolled down inside the Institution, right past the shed where the boys took their meals. Every single boy who was able turned and stared at those vehicles, murmuring excitedly about the “Maschina!”

One day, I got a small illustration of what might happen if those walls came down. It happened to be a market day, and there were plenty of walkers and bicyclists on the road. One woman in her sixties caught sight of Aaron standing in the gate, and because she had just come from the market, she had candy in her pocket. She was the sort of woman who, when she saw a boy, wanted to give him a piece of candy. So she reached into her pocket and extracted three pieces, which she tried to hand to Aaron at about his waist level. But because of his condition, Aaron couldn’t raise his hands to waist level, nor could he grasp a piece of candy. So I took it, unwrapped it and fed it to him (I wouldn’t try that now, because he’s become too independent).

Through a single act of kindness, that woman got a chance to receive God’s blessings. She got to see that even boys who aren’t perfect on the outside still enjoy good gifts. She got the joy of giving Aaron a gift, without any hope of repayment, and of seeing how happy he was to receive it. And maybe she saw, or for all I know already knew, that we broken humans are most like God when we are giving good gifts to the helpless. To God, we wretched sinners must all seem as spiritually helpless as the Lost Boys seem physically or mentally helpless to us. In His compassion, God gives us good gifts that we can never repay, and takes pleasure when we receive them with joy. Our hearts are most like His when we follow His example and sacrifice ourselves for the helpless.

Someday, the walls around Aaron's institution and others like it are going to come down. I believe they're already starting to fall. But they will only be completely gone when people there, and here, realize that every child is a gift from God, and that "imperfect" ones can sometimes answer the needs of our sinful hearts even better than "perfect" ones can.


  1. As usual, a beautiful post. Have you considered writing a book about your experiences? You truly have a way with words.

  2. What a wonderful post....incredibly touching. I would have to agree, you both could write a book.

  3. Oh, LORD, bring down the walls!

  4. Amen. :) You put to words things God has been showing us too through our adopted kids and other families like yours.
    So glad Aaron is outside those walls and we pray many more will follow.
    The Adamsons

  5. It has taken our "special" adopted children to reveal the things in our hearts and lives that we had no idea were there. God has allowed them to humble us time and time again and shed a few tears because of their pure hearts and simple minds.
    I agree, every human should be able to share their life with others even when broken, and not be hidden away behind walls and in institutions.
    I have decided now after a few years of living with special needs, "WHO after all, is normal?"
    Bless you for sharing! May God bless your efforts to move these children from behind those walls!
    Melody W.

  6. I am a grandmother to a little boy who my daughter & son-in-law are waiting to travel to EE to bring this precious child to a "FOREVER HOME," your post is wonderful & i agree you should write or write a movie about your experience's so the whole world can see how these children of our Heavenly Father are treated. I had a stroke 16 yrs ago & my left arm & hand hangs down like your little Aaron...


Loving words from kind people make our hearts glad!


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