Friday, August 30, 2013

One Year

Kathryn is officially no longer in her gap year. In fact, it's now been exactly one year since she began her adventures, perhaps rendering this blog retired. But despite the fact that it's been months since the last post, there were still 500 hits last month from 8 different countries, so for those who continue to read, here is something to read!

I woke up bright and early for Western Religion at 8 o'clock this morning.

I walked to class through heavenly sunbeams streaming through the trees, casting a luminous glow all over campus.

Five minutes later saw me sprinting across campus, this time oblivious to its heavenly luminosity, in order to retrieve the homework from my dorm room which I managed to completely forget in a stereotypical spell of classic Kathryn absentmindedness.

And so as I sat in religion class, quite riveted to the knowledge the professor is imparting upon my brain, I hear him speak of the purpose of humanity and the mystery of our existence and it reminds me of a story from this very day in 2012. A story that takes place in Léogâne, the epicenter of the Haiti earthquake.

I was at  a tent orphanage located at the end of a hidden back road. My attentions were suddenly captured by a little girl, standing forlorn, staring sadly into space. She was wearing a tattered pink dress, and the dirtiest little pink dress shoes full of holes and coated in dirt. Her hair was gathered in a few skimpy little braids, and it was tinted orange –a sign of malnutrition. In one hand, she held a trinket, donated presumably by some well-wishing American. It was a MacDonald's happy meal toy– a plastic action figure of the mouse (at least I think that contorted creature was meant to be a mouse) from the movie Flushed Away.

There she stood, clutching the toy in one hand, and staring with a face as sad as any face I have ever seen on a child. She was probably about three years old, but the face she had was a face only an adult should ever have. I walked over to her, crouched down and held her hand. Every single other child who I had done that to in Haiti thus far had instantly latched on and grabbed my hand, responding to this gesture with a beaming face.

This one didn't. Her little hand was limp in mine. She didn't even turn her head to look at me and see who had touched her. She just continued to stare into space. I picked her up; she smelled awful. I picked her up and held her close and kissed her sunken cheeks. I held her for a long time. We just stood there, I talked to her, and she continued to stare. I wondered what her name was; I thought I heard the kids call her something that sounded like, “Kevin”.

Then I brought her to a bench and sat down with her in my lap. Her little pink dress got caught and pulled up in the process. She was wearing nothing under her dress, and Kevin was decidedly not a girl. I could not but laugh at the bitter irony of the scene from Pixar's Up that flashed through my head... “Kevin's a girl?”... In this case, Kevin was not a girl. An irony enough to break my heart.

I continued to hold little Kevin, and he continued to be unresponsive. I tried opening his MacDonald's happy meal toy for him and showing it to him, but it was as if he didn't even see it. I placed it in his hand, and within seconds, his little hand had dropped it on the ground. Any other child I know would clearly indicate to me that they wanted it back. He made no noise, no gestures, no facial expressions. His interest was finally a little bit perked by the plastic wrapper. He seemed to actually see it at least.

Some of the kids had found a little puppy dog, and when I say little, I mean this puppy was tiny. They brought it up to Kevin, laughing, and tried to get him to hold it. Even when a squeaking, squirmy puppy dog was shoved in his face, Kevin was totally unresponsive. He didn't react at all. I can only imagine what must have happened in the course of Kevin's short life to make him act in such a way.

Shortly after the kids with the puppy left, I looked down to see little Kevin's head had fallen onto my chest, and he was fast asleep. Fleas began to gather on his face and his body. His hair was filthy. Suddenly a little girl started screeching, “pee pee! Pee pee!” I looked down and sure enough, a steady stream of it was squirting out of Kevin and onto my lap. I didn't mind it, though. I moved my leg slightly, and the rest of it landed on the bench. I held Kevin until it was time to go on to the next orphanage.

I gently woke the little boy up, and set him down on the ground. His eyes opened, and he returned to standing in the same position, gazing sadly into space. In my mind's eye were imagines of clean and glittering American bathrooms; I wanted to take him into one and bathe him and give him handsome boy clothing, and bring him to the doctor's office, and feed him, and teach him what it means to play and laugh and what it feels like to be loved and what it means to sleep in a bed instead of a US AID tent. US AID tents and tarps were everywhere. Branded on them was the slogan, “From the American People.” That phrase seemed somehow taunting, hollow, absurd. I turned and looked at Kevin one last time, standing in a patch of dirt in his pink clothing, staring into space.

One year later, I still remember you, Kevin. I wonder where you are now. I wonder if you belong to someone who loves you. I'm sorry for all the times that I do forget. For all the times when I allow my heart to become numbed to your plight and to the plight of the millions of precious souls like you. As this school year starts and as a new chapter of my life starts with it, as the chaos of college, classes, and clubs ensues, I pray that I will not forget but remember.

Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like You have loved me.
Break my heart for what breaks Yours
Everything I am for Your Kingdom's cause
As I walk from earth into eternity.

With "Kevin", August 2012 


  1. Well, hello! I'm glad that your college does not have a huge campus!

    And I prayed for Kevin after reading this.

  2. Kathryn, you will never forget your experiences in Haiti nor the children that you met and even those you did not meet. Even if you are not thinking of them every minute of every day they will always be in your heart. Perhaps your memory is so full of these children that it leaves little room to remember things like taking your homework to class with you.