A glimpse of innocence in an otherwise harsh world.

Stars - Title Page - a team trip volunteer hugging a toddler girl.Nights used to be long. When the stars awoke, my mother would usher me to the dark corner of our small recycled home. Unknown faces made their way into our sleeping space and then shuffled out just as quickly as they came.

I would spend the time tracing the wooden floor planks with my little finger or covering my ears to shield out the sounds coming from across the room. Every once in a while I would make my way outside to the cool, brisk air the night invited; taking in a deep breath and releasing the uneasiness that made its way into the bottom of my stomach.  The darkness would swallow me whole.

The neighbor next to us would sometimes find me and bring me inside. Her home was nicer than ours. No strange sounds or strange people.  Just a few hammocks and a giant rug with yellow flowers. Those flowers took me to a safe place in my dreams. Dreams of hope, laughter, and happiness. One day maybe. Maybe…

That maybe knocked on our door one day.

I remember that day so fondly. The sun had broke through the cracks in the wall and tickled my eyes awake. My mother was asleep. She needed rest from the active night. One of the strangers, or friends as my mother would call them, brought me sweet fruit. As I nibbled on the treasured gift, I heard a sound that would forever change my life.

Stars - A mother holding her little boy in a green hammock in their home.I quickly jumped to my feet and swung the door open. A smiling face greeted me with such kindness that I have never experienced. She asked to speak with my mother, but my mother needed rest. Curiosity overtook me. I spewed out every question that entered my mind. The excitement was too loud for my mother so she arose and tiredly made her way to the door. The sunlight danced so beautifully across her face. The smiling lady answered all my questions and those of my mother.  Her words brought hope to me as she explained she had a place for me when evening arrived. A place where I could play with my friends, get cleaned up from the day’s adventures, and have dinner! The best part was when she explained there was a bed for me to sleep on during the night as my mother worked.

A bed for me. I could not believe it. Well, I did believe it a few seconds later!

I tugged my mother’s arm with all my four years of strength, pleading she take me there. I couldn’t bear another night of unknown faces or wandering around in the moonlight by myself. There are only so many places I could explore under the moonlight before my bare feet got grew tired. And far too many things I tried to stay away from as the darkness crept along the discarded corridors of the neighborhood.

This hope overtook me. My mother said she would think about it, took a card from the smiling lady, and crawled back to bed.  

Mother please. I want this. No, I need this please.

I laid next to my mother hoping I could somehow influence her dreams with my hopeful desires.

Stars - a little girl playing and smiling at NightCare.The day quickly passed. As the night began to awake, my mother washed her face and put a shirt on my bare body. I rode on her hip across the single board bridge that stretched across a steady river that could swallow me whole if I pushed away. I clung to her as tightly as I could. Then the loud sounds of passing cars arrived. Their lights lit up the darkness.  My mother gracefully made her way across the roadway and to a nearby neighborhood.

I looked up at the stars. Instead of fear, I felt hope. I asked my mother where we were going. She replied to a nice place and assured me she’d be back in the morning to get me. Hope continued to arise in my heart. I remembered the smiling face that greeted me in the morning. My desires did influence my mother’s dreams!

Laughter echoed through the cool air as we approached big red doors. They were pretty. We walked inside where more smiling faces greeted us with love. Some of my friends from the neighborhood were their playing with things I have never seen before. I wanted to play with them too!

My mother kissed my forehead and told me she would come back for me when I awoke with the sunlight. A nice woman scooped me up in her arms and took me upstairs to brightly lit room. She carefully washed me and made lots of bubbles for me to play with. After I was clean, I went downstairs and played with fun colored items that made sounds. I was so happy. The happiness burst across my face. I could not contain it. Then came dinner. I could not remember the last time I ate so much that my belly bulged.

Stars - a team trip volunteer talking to mothers and toddlers in the community.After we all ate, we sang songs and danced. I felt so free to dance and sing with my friends and the smiling ladies. This was better than I could ever dream of.  One of the smiling ladies picked me up and told the others to follow her upstairs. It was bedtime.

I did not see strange faces tonight. Or hear the strange sounds. I was not scared or alone. I had a bed of my own to sleep on. This smile would not leave my face, nor did I want it to. This was the best night of my life. I played over each moment carefully in my mind, savoring every smile and laugh. As I looked out the window to the stars, I wished I could do it all over tomorrow.

Tomorrow came and I did it all over again. And the day after that and the day after that.

No more darkness. No more unknown. No more being alone.

I am cared for and loved, not only by my mother, but by these wonderful ladies I now call aunties. I cannot imagine my life outside of here. I have hope and I am happy. I look forward to tomorrow and to the stars.

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