They have met.
My parallel universes have collided.
Sunshine and Peter Pan have joined forces and become the super-cool duo that could only be designed by Someone with a wonderful sense of humor.
Last week, I was in their country for nine days working with New Horizons for Children—we were interviewing and selecting children for this summer’s hosting program (there are some incredible kids on there—please sign up here to see them, even if it’s just to choose a couple to pray for or support). We traveled all over the country to orphanages and foster homes to meet as many children as we could, since they all must be personally interviewed to be selected for the program.
When we reached the capital city, where both Sunshine and Peter Pan live, I had a short hour and a half window of time. They both contacted me and told me they wanted to meet me for dinner.
Both these dear ones of mine are their own unique personalities. Sunshine has a sharp, sassy tongue and she is not afraid to tell you what she thinks. Peter Pan is a sweet nerd with a quirky sense of humor. They both have bonded with me in their own ways, and both sit deep in my soul.
But neither of them had ever had to share me. Sunshine came to America for hosting Christmas of 2013 and summer of 2014. Peter Pan had just returned home after a Christmas 2015 hosting. She worried that he was her replacement; he worried that he could never measure up. I had heard passing comments from them both that they thought the other was “a little bit stupid.” In theory, they both thought it was great that I had another host child I loved, but the reality of meeting that other was a little overwhelming for us all.
Sibling rivalry is an actuality in all families; it’s just that most people don’t introduce their siblings to each other at the ages of 17 and 19. I was definitely worried about how it would go.
As it turned out, I wasn’t even there. And I couldn’t be prouder of these children of mine.
My work was running behind, so Sunshine asked for Peter Pan’s number. Reluctantly, I passed it on, and they met in a coffee shop, along with Sunshine’s boyfriend. I have no idea what conspired in those moments, but when I caught up with them soon after, I found the two children of my heart bonded and already connected.
They informed me that they had already covered their mutual frustrations at Little Man’s annoying behavior; mourned together over my poor clothing choices; and ranked the best and worst people they had both met in America. They discovered that one of Peter Pan’s good friends was the brother of Sunshine’s boyfriend, and a former schoolmate of them both.
They met me not as strangers to each other, but as two people already entangled in joy at the strings of connection that flowed between us all.
There were running hugs into my arms. Foo on anyone who thought these two teenagers were crazy. There were requests for the promised gifts. There was laughter.
And of course, the criticism.
“Oh…you color your hair!” Sunshine immediately exclaimed. Of course, I proudly acknowledged. I knew how important that was to her and made sure I had it done professionally before I left for the trip.
“Too bad it’s cut so short and looks bad,” she mourned. “At least it will grow.”
Oh, girl. You do beat all.
And on and on. I was not properly dressed for the weather. I take too many pictures. I embarrass them. One on top of the other, each gaining momentum from the other.
And so I talked louder, and made my picture taking even more obvious. And they laughed, because such are the rules of this game.
When we got to the restaurant, they ordered the same thing. They nodded their understanding at my stupidity for not liking sushi.
Sunshine took to her role as big sister right away. She offered to pay for Peter Pan’s taxi home. She promised to help him practice for his student visa interview. She outed him when she found out he had taught me an off-color slang phrase in their language. At least she always TOLD me when I was learning bad words, she quipped.
And Peter Pan slipped into his comfort quickly, too. He groaned as we took another selfie, but reached out to hold Sunshine’s purse so she didn’t have to set it on the slushy ground. He scolded me when he thought I was grilling Sunshine’s boyfriend too hard. He didn’t want me to turn into the parent in the “Rude” song by Magic, obviously pleasing Sunshine with his complaints.
There was some competition, too. I gave one something, and the other wanted to know where theirs was. They compared notes on hosting and made sure everything was even. They discussed what tattoo I should get to represent Peter Pan, and Sunshine waggled her head and told him he had to make it to America a second time to earn it. Of course, he tossed back–but his will have to be bigger than hers to match his legendary status.
But even in that, there was obvious affection. I hugged Sunshine, then Peter Pan, then Sunshine again. She sassed to him, “Ha! I got two and you only got one!” then immediately pushed him toward me for his second helping.
It was three people who had never shared the same space discovering that they shared the same spirit. This was not just a meeting, but a bonding of the elements that make up this tribe of mine.
I know that I am quite fortunate to have it go this way. These are, after all, children from hard places, and a lot of things could have gone wrong. I know a lot of things will. When we start to live life, the broken always reveals itself.
But not on that night. Not in that shining hour when our faces and hands could look and touch and our tongues could speak the things that our souls already knew.
We belong together.
We have traveled far, and we have each journeyed through our own hell. Not one of us will forget the pain of the things we have passed through. We whisper them sometimes, and we live with them in the skin of who we are. We hate those evil things, and we mourn the things we have lost because of this broken world.
But we also know that it is because of the way we have walked, and the truths that we have learned, and the scars that we reveal…it is these things that bring us to a place where we can find a new home, a new connection, a new family—together. We can live and love in the good while mourning over the bad that came before. We do not understand why the bad happened, nor are we thankful for it, but we acknowledge that it was that path that brought us to this place of great delight. We know that we will never fully understand how it all works.
All we know is that when we are together—for an hour, for a day, for a month, for whatever moments we are given in this life—there is joy. There is hope and plans for the future. There is love.
And so I parted ways with my dear ones far too soon, with promises of calls and texts, and crossed fingers over plans of a glorious reunion this summer. I long for it to happen, but I know that I will be okay if it doesn’t. It is not in physical proximity that our hope is found, but in the knowledge of loving and being loved.
But I sure am grateful for that one hour I got to tell them in person.