Many years ago I sat in an office with Dr. Gundelina Velazco, a brilliant psychologist and professor from the Philippines. I was hoping to hire her as our Love146 director of Survivor Care. I knew nothing about child psychology or trauma counseling, but I knew that she did. She had been recognized for her phenomenal work all over Asia, even winning the Presidential award in the Philippines for her work with children. I honestly thought we didn’t have a chance of hiring her.
“If you were to create a survivor program from scratch,” we asked her, “what would it look like?” In that moment it was as if someone took the lid off a box containing all kinds of unimaginably beautiful and wonderful things. She unfurled and came to life as she put words to things that she had been dreaming about for a long time, even diagraming on a big piece of paper a model for a safe home that was to eventually become our Love146 Round Home. When she was done I remember looking up at her saying: “Come dream with us.” And she said yes.
Several years later I walked across a barren piece of property that we had just purchased in the Philippines. It was night and the weeds and grass were up to my chest. I closed my eyes (partly because I didn’t want to glimpse what might crawl or slither across my feet) and I pictured a dream coming true.
I could hear in my mind the sounds of children’s laughter and singing. I pictured children playing and going to school. I imagined the coming of unbridled joy.
A few days ago I was back in the Philippines walking this property again. But it is no longer a dream. It is a reality.
The property is a like a tropical Garden of Eden. It brims with boys and girls, staff, families, goats, chickens, acres of vegetable gardens, a fish pond, the Round Home, a health clinic, classrooms, a chapel, a two-story treehouse that doubles as a therapy room, and stone pathways that wind through the banana trees. Tranquil. Peaceful. Quiet. Except … for the sounds of children. The breathtakingly beautiful sounds of children laughing. Singing. Playing. The sounds of children recovering their childhoods. The sounds of children breaking the silence. The sounds of a dream come true.
The children are excited to be learning how to play musical instruments, and put on a concert with laser lights, fog machines, and confetti canons. (Thanks, Paramore, for inspiring our kids!) At the end of our visit we usually have a time for celebration and dancing. And true to tradition one of the staff acted as a DJ and started the music playing. The familiar sounds of “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” filled the air and every kid was instantly on the dance floor. And I might add, many of them were executing the dance moves to that song perfectly.
And then she spotted me. One of our 5-year old girls saw me from across the dance floor sitting in my chair. You see … I don’t dance. It ain’t pretty. I have no sense of rhythm, or grace. When she caught my eye a huge grin broke out across her face and she came running at me with a mission. Grabbing my hands she pulled me out onto the dance floor. And yes … I danced. My Whip and my Nae Nae leave a lot to be desired, and you should see me doing the “Stanky leg.” I could imagine my kids half way around the world covering their eyes at just the thought.
But here’s the deal: When you’re standing in the midst of a dream come true, thinking about all that it has taken and those who have made it possible … and a 5-year old who you would think shouldn’t have a reason to even smile again pulls you out onto the dance floor to dance … you dance.