It’s Too Late to Hide
I first noticed him as he shuffled past me while making his way through the crowd of excited children swarming around the room at the school for deaf and blind children outside Saigon, Vietnam. He moved slow, but steady. His arms and legs were twisted and drawn in such a way that made it impossible for him to maneuver quickly through all the activity. As he passed by me I noticed a single golden-brown teddy bear dangled limply from the tight clutch of one hand—flopping up and down with each movement he made.
He was different among those who were different. He did not fit among those who did not fit with others. Seeing he had only one gift and the other children embracing many, I remembered a nearby bag of toys, and with the intent of getting the boy more toys to enjoy, I turned from him and made my way through the crowd. Filling my hands with gifts I turned back only to find that the boy was gone.
I knew I had seen him. He was just there. So, I began to search the room for him. He was nowhere to be found. Outside in the courtyard I searched. He was not there. Where had he gone? “He could not have moved that quickly,” I thought. But he had.
Doing my best to communicate with people who spoke another language or with those who spoke not at all, I tried to ask where the boy had gone. Nothing but confused stares were given. Finally, in desperation, I mimed the way in which he walked and the way in which his arms were bent and pointed to a boy nearby. Some of the deaf children, watching my poor attempt to communicate, suddenly responded with wide-eyed enthusiasm and smiles and motioned for me to stay there and wait. Then, running from the room in different directions they set off in search of the boy, only to return empty-handed and apparently bewildered about his whereabouts.
The message was quickly relayed to other children and to the teachers, each responding as if they knew where to find him. Finally a rapid tapping on my arm and a pointed finger directed my attention down the sidewalk to the boy I sought being led arm-in-arm by one of the teachers. He shuffled as quickly as he could, apparently excited by the prospect that someone was looking for him.
“Why had he left and returned to his dorm room with only one gift when so many were available?” I questioned in my mind. Later, I thought about how his physical limitation—coupled with his other limitations—perhaps had been a deciding factor in choosing to take what he could and go. Perhaps he had been overwhelmed by the excitement and quick movements of the other children as they ran from place to place with hands and arms filled with gifts and indulged themselves in the Christmas-morning-like atmosphere? Maybe he thought no one would miss him, or worse, that no one would care if he stayed.
In contrast to the other children, he had one hand that he could control enough to grasp a single stuffed bear. With that he would have to be content. Maybe, in his mind, having received anything at all is better than possessing nothing at all. Better to take what little he could hold and slip silently away. Better to assume what was for others was not for him than to lose what little he had been given. Even in the act of receiving gifts he must have felt out of place.
Alone in his dorm room he had no idea that someone was looking for him and wanting to give him more. But, as I filled his pocket with toy cars and gave more to others to be carried for him, he knew there was more for him.
This human condition is seen more often than one might think. Lost among the masses ready to receive and hoping to receive so much are those who live their lives expecting to be overlooked—expecting to be left out. Their “infirmity” is that they feel different and inadequate. They do not fit or at least they feel as if they do not fit. For them, it is easier to fade away, to slip out of the room, to assume that the happiness and gifts of life are for others—not for us.
But there is One who searches for us. It is too late to hide ourselves. It is needless to hide our weaknesses. He has seen us in all our frailty. He knows us for what we are and it does not matter to him. We cannot escape Him. We can only fail to respond to His call. With Him, our receiving is only about our response to Him and what is being offered—not about others response to us.