Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Iqaluit's Children

When we were children we learned not to talk to strangers. Now that I am a woman I have discovered that the best way to get the most beauty out of life is to talk to every stranger that I possibly can. I coo at every baby and tell every mother how gorgeous her children are. I smile a grin from ear to ear for every stranger who looks me in the eye. The best part about it is that it feels so good to smile and mean it. I meet people everyday in Iqaluit with incredible stories. I hear about what brought them to Iqaluit, where they came from, and what keeps them here. I hear cultural stories and the stories of the families and children who have lived a lifestyle that is completely different from the way that I grew up.

I was having dinner with some friends the other day, when Cassie from work asked, "How do you describe Iqaluit to your friends and family?"

I laughed because describing Iqaluit to anyone is one of the most difficult things I've ever tried to word. Cassie is a beautifully spoken woman. Who also happens to be another Jamaican blooded girl in the Arctic. Cassie said, "I tell them one thing... Iqaluit is as beautiful as it is horrible."

Those words are perfect.

Which takes me back to embracing the strangers in my life, the people who show me the extents of beauty and horror. If I hadn't been open to meeting strangers and welcoming them into my life, if I hadn't wanted to be part of my community, I would never have met anyone like my eleven year old friend Qalaapik.

Qalaapik is an innocent soul, trapped in a lifestyle that I wouldn't wish upon any child. She is brilliant and talented and so incredibly loving. She has learned from every single mistake that her parents continue to make. She will be a guiding light for her generation, a roll model.

The beautiful part is the soul behind every story. The horrible part is the story.

Last night I had her shower, I made her a meal that covered every food group. I gave her my pajamas to put on and keep warm in and I made her a bed on the couch the way my mom used to do when I was staying home sick. Before I tucked her in to sleep, she hugged me, she held on so tightly and she said to me, "I wish you were my mommy."

I could barely hold back my tears. I bundled her up in blankets and turned the light out. She was happy to have so much room to herself to sleep. She is used to sharing her bed with her younger brother and sister.

I got in bed because I had to be at work for five am this morning. No matter how hard I tried I couldn't sleep. I couldn't stop thinking about how this eleven year old girl spends so much time knowing that she isn't welcome to come home. I couldn't and never will be able to comprehend the way that her parents told her to spend the night with me, without even asking my name. I have never met this child's parents. They don't know if I live in a house or on the street. They don't know my heart or what I could have done to their daughter had I been someone else. These people tear my heart to shreds. I am weeping as I write this.

I got out of bed, I stood in my doorway and I watched her sleep. I felt so much love for her, in that moment I wanted to give her everything I have to offer.

My family down South advises me not to come home with babies I've taken from parents who don't want them. Although I can understand it, it hurts to hear. I would give anything for everyone to experience this. I wish everyone knew how it felt to see these children and know that even the least we could offer them is more than what they have now.

It was so easy for me to take her in and love her for one night. I would do it every night for every child if I could.

I have a wish to share with all of you who are reading this entry. I wish that you would please pray for Iqaluit's children. Pray that even if they are stuck in a home with no love that love will find them when they need it. Pray that God will hold them while they sleep. Pray that somehow life's most important lessons will be taught to them. Pray for them.

I say it all the time. I say that my life is crazy and hectic. The truth is that I welcome it. I welcome all of these incredible, terrible, wonderful experiences that I've been having. I am so humbled by where my life has landed. I have never felt so compassionate and engaged. I have been a very lucky woman. I feel that for the first time, I am really truly experiencing life and I thank God all the time for showing me this place, this experience that honestly is as beautiful as it is horrible.


Sandra said...

Thank you for sharing this Melissa.
Watching those children sleep when they finally are in a safe and loved environment is one of the most unique feelings ever, isn't it!
There is too many children out there that live like that and I am so glad that you are out there now to spread love!

Michael said...

It was so touching. Thanks for sharing. I don't know what to say but "I" need to learn this.

Iqaluit Insider said...

You captured this tender moment beautifully. It brought tears to my eyes. It is good that you bring attention to Iqaluit's children, they certainly do need our help.