I snuggle under the warm quilt as the day breaks outside, and my mind drifts in a sleepy, still jetlagged fog to another world. The cold outside and Christmas décor inside trigger my heart to travel, and it finds its home in a snowy day.
Orphanage 2 is different than the others in the St Petersburg area. Work has been done to make the institution feel warm and cozy, and it is well-decorated for Christmas. There are even lights outside, glowing in the shades of gray winter Russian sky. It is there I found a little soulmate. His name is Andre.
Actually, he’s the youngest of three Andres at the orphanage, and he is enraptured by Christmas. Wide-eyed. Caught up in the beauty of it all. It’s all new, and it’s all worth sharing. As soon as we walked into the living area he shares with the other Andres and friends, he began telling us about the tree. “It is a Christmas tree. We put decorations on it. And it even has lights – little lights that shine!” My friend Jimmy and I looked at each other with that look moms share, and we asked the caregiver if Andre could show us the lights. She smiled, and let him plug them in. The tree came to twinkling life, and Andre’s smile followed suit. He stood, admiring the tree and the shine and the special moment, and then pointed out his favorite ornament – a small blue bell tucked away in one of the lower branches.
Andre then motioned for me to walk with him to a desk where a basket sat. It was filled with ornaments. He tenderly shared their story. “These cannot hang on the tree because they are broken. But I put them in the basket because they are still beautiful. They still have purpose.” He smiled at me as the tears welled in my eyes. I smiled back and shared my story – how I also collect broken things because I believe they are still beautiful and still have a purpose.
We stood for a moment in silence, looking at the broken ornaments. And the tree and basket triggered my heart to travel to the Christmas tree decorated in my own home, to the stockings hung on the mantle with names of precious loved ones who still get caught up in the beauty of the season. Andre’s story illuminated my own. Andre’s wide-eyed wonder breathed fresh life into mine, and his tender care of broken things was God’s whisper to me that He is tenderly caring for Andre. And He is tenderly caring for me.
Thank you, sweet Andre, for lights and baskets and broken things. And for the reminder that we all have purpose. You, little friend, are beautiful.