Little orphan Abner, sitting all alone,
Little orphan Abner, won’t someone take you home?
Little orphan Abner, your eyes with joy still light.
Little orphan Abner, don’t give up the fight!
Little orphan Abner, lying all alone,
Little orphan Abner, won’t someone bring you home?
Little orphan Abner, your smile brightens the room
Little orphan Abner, may your family find you soon!
Little orphan Abner, dreaming all alone
Little orphan Abner, won’t someone be your own?
Little orphan Abner, longing to share the play,
Little orphan Abner, please don’t fade away!
I’ve read and reread Abner’s medical description, trying to glean more from it than it is willing to reveal. I wonder if, prior to suffering the “after-effect of general disease of the nervous system”, was he was a typical developing little boy? I’m assuming the “spastic tetraparesis with strong motor disorder” is the after-effects of the neuroinfection, and that the general delays could be attributed to institutionalization. Was he already able to crawl, cruise, walk, talk, giggle, and ask questions before the idiopathic disease hit? Did he lose what he had gained?
And then I wonder if his family, unable to care for his new condition, came to the heartbreaking decision to place him in an institutional where they hoped he would have a chance. Do they pray for a family better able to provide for him would come for him? Do they know he has been transferred to an institution, that his days are numbered, that the engaging light captured in these photos may soon be snuffed out due to neglect and despair?
I ask because so many children in orphanages are social orphans, children whose parents are still alive but who are placed in institutional care due to poverty and/or disabilities. I ask because when I see Abner I want to blame someone, I want to point a finger and say “shame on you”!
But what if his mother answered yes to my questions? What if, yes she prays a family will save her son, yes she knows his days are ticking by, yes she grieves that his present life is gray and his future is grim, and yes her heart breaks with the knowledge that she is not there to comfort her son. What if his father answered yes to my questions. Yes he prays for his son to go to a family where there is a father who can provide as he cannot, yes he feels the heavy weight of time and knows he cannot add a day to his son’s life, yes his heart chills knowing strangers may dig an unmarked grave in a field next to the institution and lay his son’s body there cold and alone without ever knowing his parents loved him. What if those are the answers to my questions?
This is why I ask these questions, to remind myself to look past one sorrow to see the sorrows that led up to this picture paired with the bleak phrase “Abner has been transferred from a baby house to an institution…” Now is not the time to be pointing fingers, deciding who is to blame, and sitting back self righteous in my judgement. Now is not the time to get derailed by the worry of how much longer he may last, if he is being well cared for, if he has given up hope.
Now is the time to ask where is his future family?
Now is the time to ask are you his family?