The best things in life aren’t things.
Angelina does not know this life truth yet. As with so many children raised in orphanages, Angelina looks to material things to fill her heart’s needs. A blue cell phone represents parents, new sunglasses represent stability, pierced ears represent peer acceptance and the list goes on. The first phrase we learned from Angelina speaking in her native language is “I WANT _____” and if we answer with “no” then we were showered with a whole list of expletives.
As her parents, my husband and I want to give her the best things in life, and those things aren’t things. We want her to embrace a vibrant faith, cultivate relationships with family and friends, make memories, experience adventure, hone skills, see beauty in nature, delve into her creativity, create art, and soar with her imagination. These things, these intangible things, they are the best things in life.
Sometimes material things can go hand in hand with all that listed above. While I put together Angelina’s room I filled it with love, beauty, memories and hope. I did that by using material things, things that had meaning to me, things that are beautiful. I put in lamps that could break, mobiles that could be torn, dainty plates that could be smashed. I can be quite nostalgic and I do love nesting with little things throughout the house, but in the end these things are just things. As I set up her room I had to tell myself “If this breaks, you will be okay. The most important things in life aren’t things.”
Remember I let my young daughters pour tea from a porcelain teapot into fragile little teacups. I know the tea set can break. I also knew all these lovely things (which are just things) in Angelina’s room could be destroyed by her in a moment of rage or carelessness.
And you know what?
Many of the things have not made it.
Two of the four lamps survived the first 2 weeks home. There is a sturdier chair in her room now, the small white end table is no longer there and I’m pretty sure the nesting doll mobile has been spared by the simple fact that it is out of reach.
Last night she broke the bird lamp at bedtime and I can tell you it was not from carelessness. She watched me, waiting for a reaction, waiting for the reinforcement that things are most important. There was no reaction. My husband removed the pieces of the lamp, we finished our bedtime routine, I rocked her to bed and tucked her in. I kissed her forehead, looked into her eyes and said “I love you.” As I closed the door to leave the room I heard a little voice under the covers whisper in English “I love you mama.”
Angelina doesn’t know it yet, but SHE is one of the best things in life. I pray she learns this fact of life soon; her weary soul still believes things are the most important things. She gets glimpses of her own worth during our quiet everyday life, and she challenges it because her poor heart cannot believe this truth. She may break every dear material thing I own as she searches to find what I value most. Because my parents raised me with faith, family, and beauty, I can watch all these things (which, after all, are only things) be destroyed while I keep my eyes fixed on what is most important in life.