Monday, December 2, 2013

Many Hands

This is the time of year when, for six of the last eight years, I’ve joined with a group of people to spread Christmas cheer in South Korea as well as in our own souls. Yesterday was the first official day of the 2013 Holt Christmas Gift Team Tour and the first order of business was to assemble 96 gift bags for the foster mothers we would be seeing later in the day. Word went out that we would meet at 9:30 in room 1720. When my 15-year-old daughter, who is traveling with me, and I arrived at room 1720, activity was already underway. We were directed to the tissue paper – take a piece of tissue paper, grab it in the middle and slip it inside a bag to make a poufy resting place for the gifts. Others were stuffing candy bags, opening bags to ready them for the tissue paper, dropping gifts into bags and, very importantly, keeping count of the bags since there were different gifts for different recipients. It would have taken one or two people hours to assemble these bags, but with our group working together, we had the job done, the area cleaned and the bags on their way to the bus in less than half an hour. Many hands…

The foster mother event we were attending is an annual event that began in 1969 to honor the foster mothers who so selflessly give of themselves to create homes for children waiting to join their permanent families. Each year, Holt honors foster mothers who have served 5, 10, 15, 20 years, sometime even more. The women being honored are normally formally dressed in traditional Korean hanboks, their hair properly coifed and faces made up. In addition to the 46 women being honored other foster mothers from the area are invited to attend the festivities – most bring along the children they are currently fostering.

The room buzzed with activity throughout the event. The emcee announcing each foster mother by name, the foster mothers each taking their turn to go to the stage, receive their plaque and gift and have their photograph taken with the President of Holt Children’s Services of Korea, other foster mothers milling around in the back of the room trying to keep babies and children quiet (and not succeeding), Holt staff shuffling throughout the room to have plaques and gifts ready for presentation and to help foster mothers with the task of entertaining little ones – it’s a very formal occasion made light by the reality of so many people in a small auditorium with so many of those people being under the age of two.

As I looked around the room I smiled at the thought of all these people: Holt staff, foster mothers, foster fathers and other family members, all working together not just to find families for children, but to give the children a sense of family and a family’s love while they wait for that forever family. The work of providing a child with a home and love is not light and is, obviously, much more difficult than simply assembling gift bags, but again, many hands…

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