On a previous post I mentioned I had done a letter writing campaign to some of the small children in India:
The children in these children homes get so little adult attention because the ratio of adult to child is so small. You can see the craving for attention manifest itself in many ways as I described in the referenced post.
But the saddest way it is manifested, for me, was the quiet resignation on some on the children's faces. Those that had grown accustomed to the neglect (that may be too harsh a word as the caretakers did the best they could) were the ones who were the most quiet. They just blended into the background. Those children really tugged my heartstrings,
I'll make known to you a name amoung the nameless and show a face among the faceless. Her name was Shonibo and she the quietest and sweetest girl I encountered in my travels. I know she would never expect her story be posted on the internet!
Well, I don't know her entire story. I just know when I visited the home there she was always in the background, Unlike many of the kids, she didn't seek attention, but rather solitude. As I mentioned on the previous post, these were the children I sought out on my trips there. To let them know someone noticed them. That they are not invisible and that they mattered.
On the referenced post above, I gave you my experience of why names matter. Why personal identity is important universally. I wanted to know her name and the first time I asked her, she spoke so softly I could not hear it. It took several attempts until I learned her name: Shonibo.
At first she would not look me in the eye but just stared at the ground. Her shyness compelled me to bring out her personality and know who she was. I knew she was among the most neglected when I asked the headmaster (if that's his title) of the home and his response was, "Who is she?" He didn't even know her name!
At one point when interacting with the children they gathered around to tell me about their lives. I saw Shonibo lurking in the back being her normal quiet self. I asked her to share something about herself, but she only stared at the floor and shook her head. I knew this would take some effort.
So I sought her out frequently just to walk and talk with her. To let her know she was important in this sea of faces. Slowly I could see her warm up to me. Eventually she even smiled:
As my time progressed there I could see her slowly emerge from her shell. Towards the end of my visit she even began to seek me out and give me a hug. So out of character for how she was at first.
When I returned to the USA, I made sure I wrote her a letter every week. The mail system is very unreliable in India, especially with international mail. Probably only 60 - 70% of the mail makes it to its destination so I wanted to be sure she got at least a couple letters each month.
The children cannot reply, so I had no expectations of a return letter. But I faithfully continued the campaign for a couple years until I was told to stop by the headmaster. It seems the children who did not get letters were jealous and it caused in-fighting at the home. Since I could not write to all of them, I had to stop.
Perhaps if I only sent an occasional letter it would not have caused such an issue. But it's hard to make someone feel special without making others feel neglected. But the problem is, if you treat everyone special, then no one is special. At least that's my take.
I was happy to bring some smiles to Shonibo. In a world of anonymity, even feeling special for a moment can be a life memory.