From A 6th Bowl of Chicken Soup for the Soul


Someday all you will have to light your way will be a single ray of hope and that will be enough.

Kobi Yamada

The air was thick with heat and the whimpers of children as Lori Weller, nineteen, stood in an orphanage far away from home.

“Bonjour,” voices chimed as Lori reached for small hands. Then her eyes met those of a little girl seated in a corner. God brought me here for a reason, she thought. Is that reason you?

Growing up in Walnut Bottom, Pennsylvania, Lori had a typical life: school, friends, church on Sundays. But it became a little less typical when she joined her church youth group on a trip to build a new church in Honduras.

“I felt so good being able to help,” Lori told her parents. But even more than that, Lori felt different. It’s as if my heart is wide open, she thought. This is what I want to do—help people.

So when, in nursing school, Lori heard of a semester-break trip to work at a medical clinic in Haiti, she leaped at the chance.

Each morning, braying donkeys woke her. Then she’d climb onto a flatbed truck and ride a bumpy path to spend her day taking blood pressure readings and bandaging scrapes.

But it was the orphaned children who tore at her heart. “They will never be adopted,” she was told at one orphanage. “They’re just too sick.”

The walls there were bare, the few toys, broken. There were so many hands reaching up—and too few caretakers to reach back.

Then her eyes fell on a child of about three who was alone, with cereal smeared across her cheeks. Below a tangle of black curls, Lori saw her forehead pulsating. “She was left with us when she was about six months old,” the orphanage director said. “She has a hole in her skull from abuse. One fall could kill her.”

“Poor baby!” Lori gasped. “Nothing can be done?” she asked.

“We don’t have the money, the equipment . . . or the experience,” the director answered.

“What’s her name?” asked Lori.

“Agat Espoire. In Creole, her last name means ‘hope.’”

The child with the least hope, Lori thought sadly. A child beaten and abandoned. But when Lori pulled Agat into her lap, the toddler surveyed her with dark, soulful eyes. You deserve someone to love you, Agat, she thought.

Day after day, Lori made dolls dance for Agat. But Agat was unresponsive. If only I could see her smile, Lori thought.

On her last night in Haiti, Lori lay sleepless. How can I leave Agat here, where no one has the time to sit for hours and tell her stories? Where no one can afford to help her heal? How can I leave her . . . when she’s already in my heart?

Back at home, Lori couldn’t stop thinking of the sad-eyed little girl. If I never try to help, she thought, I’ll never stop worrying about her.

She called doctor after doctor, saying, “I have a child who needs surgery, but there’s no money.”

“Why don’t you call . . .” came the usual reply. Finally, she was directed to neurosurgeon Joel Winer. “When can she get here?” he asked.

Lori couldn’t believe her ears. “I want to repeat: There is no money,” she said.

“I went into medicine to help,” the doctor explained softly.

You sent me to Dr. Winer, Lord, didn’t you? Lori silently asked.

And as she dialed the orphanage, she looked up to see her mother smiling. “I’m proud of you, honey,” she said.

Lori’s church friends were proud, too. “You’re doing a wonderful thing,” they said, digging into their pockets to help. A month later, with Agat’s medical visa in hand, Lori flew back to Haiti.

Her heart pounded as she neared the orphanage. “Agat!” Lori called, scooping her up as the director explained to the little girl that a doctor far away would make her better. Agat looked at Lori, her wide eyes full of hope.

“I’ll take care of you,” Lori cooed. As Agat smiled, Lori’s heart melted.

At home in Walnut Bottom, Agat was so overwhelmed by all the strange sights that she clutched the ragged toy she had brought with her. But by the second day of songs and stories, Agat—giggling—knocked down a castle Lori’s dad had built from blocks.

“Listen!” Lori marveled. “She’s laughing!

Soon, Agat was full of laughter—until the day Lori handed her to the doctor. Agat shrieked in fear as he listened to her heart. She thinks I’m betraying her! Lori thought.

During a six-hour operation, Dr. Winer closed the fracture in Agat’s skull. And though she woke from anesthesia crying, the moment she heard Lori, she stopped.

Soon, Agat was healing at home with the Wellers.

“Apples,” Lori taught Agat, pointing to the fruit. “Bicycles,” Lori said as kids rode by. “Mashed potatoes!” Agat said herself. “I . . . like mashed potatoes!”

Then one night, tucking Agat into bed, Lori said, “I love you.” And a sleepy little voice echoed back, “I love you!

Tears spilled down Lori’s cheeks. She wished she could keep Agat forever. But, I’m not even out of school yet. She sighed. Agat deserves a family.

And that’s exactly what Agat got. A few days later, the Wellers’ phone rang. There had been a newspaper story about Agat’s surgery. Looking at her smiling little face, a family who’d read the story said, “We’d love to open our hearts and home to her.”

“They want to adopt her!” Lori cried jubilantly. And best of all, they lived only two hours away!

The day Lori finally had to say good-bye, she held Agat close. “I’ll always love you,” she promised. Today, Lori spends weekends sharing mashed potatoes and music with Agat’s new family.

“Now Agat is going to grow up happy, healthy and loved,” beams Lori, who’s still in nursing school. “And I know I’ll always keep in touch with her, wherever our lives take us.”

Meg Lundstrom Excerpted from Woman’s World

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