Children of the Storm

Commentary by Judy Winters

Memories are indisputably our most precious possessions. A person without memories is like a kite without a flying line. But memories are double-edged swords. They can bring meanings and joys to one's life; they can also bring sadness and despairs. In the aftermath of the 2004 Tsunami, there were images of children gathering at a Red Cross facility -- hoping for any news of their parents -- only to later learn that their loved ones had perished in raging waters. I was so touched by the story that I decided to keep a tap out for any follow-up stories. 

A few months later, I found a news report that mentioned how there was an unexpected spike in the number of missing "tsunami" orphans. Apparently, many "tsunami" kids had decided to run away from the orphanages where they had been staying. The news, as depressed as it was, did not take me by surprise. There were obvious reasons for this. 

Most of the kids living in orphanages are children who were abandoned by their parents at an early age; many do not have any memories of their parents. Consequently, these orphans treat the orphanages where they are being raised as homes and other kids at the facilities as part of their family. 

On the other hand, orphans whose parents died in accidents and other unexpected events have spent most of their lives in the loving and care of their parents. They are likely to have a hard time making the transition. Every time they hear laughter, they will be reminded of all the good times they shared with their parents. Every time they hear someone crying, they will be reminded of their many tantrums and how their parents pacified them with hugs and kisses. Every time they lie on bed, they will be reminded of the many bedtime stories their parents had told them. Memories can indeed be dreadfully painful. 

From time to time, some guests would visit the orphanage. These guests would hear about the orphans' stories and cast a sympathetic eye upon them. Unknown to the guests is the fact these orphans absolutely despise their petty pity. They just want to be treated like everyone else. All they want to do is to run away from the painful memories, start a new life, and be free. In due course, some of them would do just that. 

By day, these kids would wander the streets begging for money. By night, they would become "night phantoms" preying on bystanders' wallets. On occasion, they would lurk outside the local ice-cream store stalking a family of three sharing a big glass of ice cream sundae together. For a brief moment, they would experience visions of the good times they shared with their deceased parents. But the experience is brief, lasting only seconds; they are soon on their way.

At the end of the day, they would seek refuge under a bridge somewhere. There aren't any beds or pillows for them to lie on. But it is just what they have always wanted. All the activities, during the day, have made their legs sore and their backs ache. Within minutes, they are soundly asleep. May be in their dreams, these poor orphans will finally escape the memories that have been haunting them. Sweet dreams.....little ones.