I wrote this essay in December 2009 after I returned from a week of service at an all-boys’ orphanage in the Dominican Republic. My daughter and I are heading back to this same orphanage for Christmas 2010.
“We’re going to have a spa for the boys!” an exuberant program director announced.
What does that mean, exactly? Spa – as in manis and pedis? Seriously? You want us to wash their feet? With our hands? Have you seen their feet?
Christmas Eve 2009 was going to be as special for these boys as the impressive Orphanage Outreach team could make it. With a group of dedicated, albeit skeptical, volunteers – anything was possible. Okay. I admit. I was probably the only skeptic in the group. Everyone else seemed really jazzed about the idea of washing and manicuring the feet and hands of 24 orphaned boys in the middle of nowhere, Jaibon, Dominican Republic.
Setup was relatively smooth – rows of white plastic lawn chairs facing each other with plastic trashcans full of soapy water between them, nail clippers and lotion at the ready. On the opposite side of the pavilion – chairs on either side of three tables lined up end to end, adorned with basins of soapy water, nail clippers and, you guessed it – lotion.
The concept: the boys would join us in the pavilion and be ushered to the beginning of either the foot station or the hand station. There were four washing stations per appendage – standing by. As soon as their respective feet and/or hands were washed, they would move down the line to a waiting – and highly trained – pedicurist or manicurist, who would trim their nails. After the nails were cleaned and trimmed, the lotioners were geared up – bring on the feet and hands. Naturally, each boy would have both his feet and his hands done before moving to the waiting area, where back massages were being offered at no additional cost!
The question of the hour had to be answered: Where was I going to position myself for this spa experience? My choice. No pressure. No requirement. No expectation. Almost instinctively, I walked to the nearest chair with a trashcan of soapy water waiting for some dirty feet. Clean toothbrush (aka: toe brush) in hand, I contemplated my impulsive decision.
It only took the first little boy sitting across from me to get my answer – there was nothing impulsive in my decision at all, but rather inspiration. The moment I placed my hands in the water and touched the bottoms of his feet, my heart filled with such a rush of emotion I knew I would either laugh or cry. Laughter expressed itself freely then, but now – only tears.
Here I was – touching a child – someone else’s child, but mine in that moment. A child abandoned – not touched by his own mother, but so desperately in need of the love only touch can communicate.
A bit of dirt, some soapy water, but a mother’s heart, and I remembered: “Whosoever shall humble himself like one of these children, and receiveth me, ye shall receive in my name. And whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me only, but him that sent me, even the Father” (Mark 9:37).
After a particularly poignant experience in which Jesus washed the feet of his apostles, he taught, “If I then, your Lord Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him” (John 13:14-16).
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Katie Brown says
Wow. That’s really all I can say. Wow. So beautiful and touching, spiritual. Wow.
Laura Rittenhouse says
What an amazing way to spend Christmas! For you and the kids. I hope this year’s trip is as rewarding for all of you.
Reza Malayeri says
Arminda? You gotta stop making me tear up every-time you write 😉
Your heart is made of gold my dear. God bless you for setting the example for your daughter and your commitment to helping others. What an inspirational story. Thank you for sharing!
Bill Tanksley says
I remember your trip last year. Hope we can eat pesto before your travels! 😉
I don’t know you yet, but I will after next week! I came across your page while searching for information on OO Jaibon. My husband and I will be volunteering at OO during the same week as you and your daughter. Your words were very touching and made me even more excited about our upcoming “honeymoon” in Jaibon. Looking forward to meeting you tomorrow!
Thanks for not rejecting my above post. Amit was SO wrong, it wasn’t creepy at all! RIGHT!?!?
@Katie – Thank you so much for your continued encouragement and support.
@Laura – This year was just as rewarding as last year, and I can’t wait to share more about it with you!
@Reza – xoxo
@Bill – mmmmm. Pesto.
@Anita Chickita Bonita – meeting you and Amit was one of the many highlights of this year’s trip. And, no, there was nothing creepy about your earlier comment 🙂 Hugs to you both!
Charlie Decker says
Hi-Orphanage Outreach has ended it’s program of bringing volunteers to the Orphange Hope of A Child in Monte Cristi.
My foundation is starting the program again. Please let me know if you are interested and know of others who might be as well.
Many of the children had to be sent home (to awful living circumstances) as a result.
We are trying to get a group together for March
Video tour of orphange in La Romana
Lenoir Family 9/11/11 Tribute
July 2011 Newsletter
March 2011 trip report
DECKER FOUNDATION BOARD MEETING ALBUM
Hogar de Bebes (Santo Domingo)
Orphanage Jackies House