I spent a Christmas and the whole winter in Czech Reppublic, a few years ago. Prague was the last place in the world I would have imagined I would end up in. But because life has a way of surprising us, I took a train from Krakow (Poland) to Prague one November morning, and I made my way to an overly-crowded house by the edge of the forest, and stayed there for six months.
The poor house was full to the brim. There were so many of us—and mostly children. This was at the time the center, for the biggest children’s foundation in Czech Reppublic. The folks that lived there were volunteers—and they also had children of their own. I took care of two little boys in the mornings and in the afternoons I taught three teen girls dancing, cooking, and we even tried our hands at sowing (which turn out to be a total disaster) :)
It was in that house that I met Leelu—she was 13 at the time. She was a cute, petite girl, with dark hair and amazing blue eyes. She loved reading, and dancing, and was the kind of girl that would wake up early and go down to the kitchen and wash all the dishes before breakfast, and would be the last one sweeping the floor after a late dinner. It was wonderful to work with her, because you could count on her to be there, even in the midst of chaos and emergencies.
In the summer of 2004, when I was living in Hungary, we had a teenage boy staying with us for a couple of weeks. I was his legal guardian, and he was the first of what I call ’my kids’. Leelu is of course, one of ’my girls’—ever since I first met her.
Leelu went with her family to the Philippine Islands and then back to Czech. And twice she came to visit us in Hungary. Last time she came to stay with us for a few weeks, we discoreved that she was suffering from an eating disorder. This wasn’t a strange girl, off the streets, or in an institution for orphan children—this was Leelu, one of us, one of ’my girls’.
The truth is that I didn’t know how to relate to her, I didn’t know how to help her, and I felt overwhelmed with hopelessness.
Leelu went back home, and she wrote me a few times, but how could I know that all the while she was ’starving’ herself to the point that she had to be admitted in a hospital just a few days after Christmas.
When I first heard of it, thru a friend of mine, I cried and cried. I didn’t know what to do—I was miles away from her, and she was being kept in a ward with no contact with the outside world until she would gain some weight.
It was a hard time for me to know that my Leelu was suffering, and was probably feeling all alone. I wrote my friend Paula with the question ’what should we do?’
’Let’s pray for her!’ was her wise answer
So I did—I focused all my love and positive energy towards Leelu and prayed that she will be strong enough to fight for life—to choose to live!
Last weekend I got a letter from her telling me that she is trying, that it’s very difficult but that she feels our prayers for her.
When Leelu was 13, and we roomed together, we would say ’May love be your keeper’ to each other when saying goodnight.
Those words have never meant so much to me as they do today. If there’s anything that will keep our Leelu safe, is love. Our love, and the Lord’s love overall.
And love can cross oceans and mountains over to where our friends are struggling and help them conquer all. None of us is alone in this world, we can count that the love of our family and friends is there to sustain us when we are not brave and strong enough to face life. Let’s remember to pray for each other, shall we? We could be saving someone’s life!
For Leelu, who is finding herself again: ’May love be your keeper.’