On this last day with the children we talked about how to say good-bye before we left the hotel. We wanted to make it as easy as possible for them and also let them know we would be back. Little did we know how difficult it would also be for us. We were so busy thinking about how to prepare the children for good-bye, we didn’t think about how to prepare ourselves. I don’t think any of us came here without thinking that it would be an emotional experience, but the reality is always so much different than the expectation.
After visiting the home of Urmilla and Manita yesterday, I looked at them completely different today. Nothing had changed in their lives, but definitely something had changed in mine. I had seen the way they lived, the dark dank room and one bed they shared with their families. The dirt, the smell. Every child came to us wearing the same clothes every day. I don’t recall seeing any dresser ,closet or clothing in these small rooms that held many more people than they should, yet ,the smiles on these faces never faded. They bounced through the door day after day with a loud “Namaste!” (hello) and “How are you!” Their attention span and energy never flagged, even for the very young.
We started this last session as we always did, with a song Margaret wrote for them. It was our “Hello” song and we’ve heard them singing it all over town. Lynn played and explained the cello to them with much interest from all. Neil’s “Happy” is another song they always want to sing and it too, has made it past the door of our HEARTbeats center and into the streets of Bhaktapur. Today they sang it one last time for us- loud and clear! A few run- throughs of Head,Shoulders Knees and Toes and Tootie Talk (which is as much fun to watch as it is to sing!) and it was time for Good-bye. We ended the day as we always did with a song who’s melody comes from another ancient tradition that Neil wrote lyrics to:
“Make peace in places you call home, and peace in places you may roam, peace for you and others too, peace,peace,peace”.
These children understand very well the concept of peace and take great pleasure in holding up their fingers in the peace sign when we sing “peace”. When we told them we were leaving but promised to return there were many reactions. One older girl, Mina, broke down in tears, She has no parents and lives with her grandparents and siblings in one room in the city. She has been so quiet the whole week. I had no idea how much this meant to her. It broke my heart to see her in tears. I took her aside and promised we would return and that we would not forget this week. She said, “Please don’t forget us”. Needless to say, she wasn’t the only one in tears.
When one sees the impact up close here, hears their voices and experiences their joy, there is no way NOT to be infected by it all. We will return and make this something that they won’t only have to wish for. We will make it a reality that they can hold in their hands and in their hearts.
Signing off now for the last time in Nepal. On my way home tonight and really looking forward to getting home and getting started in earnest on the future of HEARTbeats Foundation in Nepal. Magic happens here. Namaste and see you soon.