On May 23, 2015 I walked into the “playroom” at Rescue. I had been in India less then 24 hours and was completely overwhelmed and second guessing myself. As I scanned the room around me I saw lots of little kids but I found myself drawn to Balraj’s (Thomas’) bed. He was just laying there amid the chaos and as I sat with him I felt comfortable. I may not have any idea how to say anyone’s name or knew what I was supposed to be doing here but I knew what to do with Balraj. I knew how to sit him up, talk to him, and sing to him. And in that hour that I sat with him I found the first beginning of my piece of home in India. I spent many nights in my first 2 months in India on Balraj’s bed, hanging with him and his bud Valor. And when we moved up to the rooftop along with Katherine, Salim, Penny, Valor, and Julie I knew that I had found my little piece of home along with Balraj.
Over the next couple of years that piece of home grew to include more kids, a new home, and Brittany as my co-foster. And despite the growing chaos I always knew I could recenter myself with some stolen moments with Balraj. We spent afternoons on the porch, soaking in the last sunrays of the day and reading books together. Or somedays we simply sat and I sipped chai and did Balraj’s stretches in between sips. Balraj was usually content to just be and gave me the rare gift of slowing down. Balraj was an old soul we always said. He may have never spoken but he had a presence around him that held peace that drew people in.
Balraj was easy to overlook but once you got to know him you came to appreciate his side eyes that he threw frequently, especially when you tried to plop a baby or a puppy in his lap. He had a great laugh and smile that didn’t appear often but when it did there was no mistaking it. He loved to take long walks. One of the greatest things about our move to Anchor was the ability to go on walks easier. No more carrying Balraj and his wheelchair up and down stairs. Although it was much easier before he had a big growth sprout! Balraj also loved a good outing and even though it got harder as he got older we still tried to make sure he got out into the community as much as possible. Balraj saw movies, went to the zoo, went to the park, and once even went to Starbucks and had some whipped cream.
When I kissed Balraj goodbye on my last day in India I didn’t know that it would be the last day I kissed his checks on this side of heaven. My heart wasn’t prepared to let this piece of home go but God has a plan greater then my own. Balraj always struggled with his health. There were many days and nights of breathing treatments and being hooked up to monitors. This past year was one respiratory infection after another and it all finally got to be too much for his body to handle this past Saturday.
Balraj spent most of his life at SCH and although the injustice of him dying without a family is not lost on me I do feel peace that he died loved. The fact that people are mourning his death and he is not another nameless child who died is a blessing in and of itself. And although it pains me that I won’t see him again I know that his body is finally free from all the pain he has endured. Thomas was never successful by worldly standards but he taught me what unconditional love looks like. The lives he changed through his presence is the legacy he leaves behind. I wrote a blog about Balraj back in February that I was rereading and the last words still ring true to me today and everyday. “But I do know this. That in a world full of uncertainty and pain that Thomas (Balraj) shows us what it means to love and to be still and let God work through him. And that is a powerful lessons we can all learn from.”
Looking back over my blog I realize that it is a bit sparse with stories and updates of Thomas, my oldest boy. Not on purpose but Thomas is easily overlooked in our house. He is quiet and steady and if you ever come to Anchor Gold odds are your your eyes might slide over Thomas and never return to him. If you talk to him odds are he won’t respond and if you are lucky you might get one of his fleeting smiles. But Thomas has taught me some important lessons while I’ve been his house mom.
By worldly standards Thomas won’t be successful. He won’t get married, he won’t make a ton of money, he won’t write a book that will move you to tears. He won’t meet the typical definition of success in a world where you are judged on what you have done. But when we moved beyond an earthly definition of success and judge Thomas for his impact on others we can see that Thomas’s greatest success might be teaching all of us who come in contact with him the meaning of unconditional love.
I’ve lived with Thomas for 2 and a half years now. I’ve tended to him during his many lung infections, taken him on walks, carried him and his wheelchair up and down stairs, celebrated his birthday 3 times, and taken him to the zoo. And I’m still not sure he knows me vs any one else. But that doesn’t matter to me. Thomas isn’t defined by what he gives. Because Thomas show me what unconditional love looks like. Love where I only give and get nothing in return. Unconditional love is hard to come by in the world. It’s hard to love someone who isn’t giving you anything in return. But when we are able to give unconditional love we get a glimpse of the Father’s love for us; his infinite, all consuming love that we will never be able to comprehend here on earth.
And Thomas’ greatest impact on this world may be on others. For the younger kids who have come to accept Thomas just as he is and fight over who gets to push his wheelchair. At a young age they have come to know what it means to love and accept someone for who they are. On his caregivers who have loved and cared for him even without getting much in return. For all the volunteers who have worked with Thomas over his past 10 years at SCH, who have taken a moment to sit with him and feel the breeze that he so enjoys. Many years ago a team was praying for Thomas and got to witness his first smile at SCH. And although I have no idea where any of those volunteers ended up I can’t help but think that witnessing Thomas’ first smile must have changed their way of thinking and praying a bit.
Last night at bib!e study we talked about how sometimes things that transpire in our lives have nothing to do with us and everything to do with how they are going to impact someone else’s life. And that might be how Thomas makes his impact on this world. His steady and still presence helps us to recenter in the midst of almost constant chaos that seems to be a part of our life here.
Thomas has lived most of his life at SCH and will probably spend the rest of his earthly life here at SCH. He came when he was 2 years old and he’s 12 years old now. Recently I was rereading our founder Sarah’s blog from the early days of SCH. And scattered throughout was tiny Thomas drinking his bottle and hanging out in his bumbo chair. One blog post about growing old with the children has been on my mind since I read it. Cute little boys grow up to be men and sometimes they still need the same care that they needed as boys. It’s hard to get caregivers and sponsorship for the older children. But Thomas needs people to grow old with him. To see beyond what meets the eye and see Thomas for his unconditional love he teaches us and the power of the lessons from those who appear to be the most powerless. Right now Thomas needs $230/month in sponsorship (And shoutout to my parents and sister who are his monthly sponsors right now). I don’t have any inspiring stories to share about Thomas to convince people to sponsor him but I do know this. That in a world full of uncertainty and pain that Thomas shows us what it means to love and to be still and let god work through him. And that is a powerful lessons we can all learn from.
Be Thomas’ Monthly Sponsor