Turnout at the Families Moving Forward holiday party was impressive -- 30 families came, including more than 80 children. We were stocked with food, crafts, and presents for all the families that have successfully moved into permanent housing in the past few years. The mood was uplifting and chaotic and the smiles that greeted us were familiar and warm.
Though eager guests began arriving even before the 6 pm advertised start time, the staff stood ready for parents to sign in. Among the rush of familiar faces and the meet-and-greets and questions, I felt a tug at my arm. I looked down to see two big brown eyes with a crooked little smile stare back at me.
“Henry*!!! You made it!” I exclaimed.
“Mai Choua!! I'm here!" was the simple, clear response, "and guess what's changed?"
"What?" I squatted to see him eye to eye.
As families continued to stream in, little Henry disclosed to me the adventures of his six-year-old life since he had left FMF four months ago: his new house, his brand new baby sister, the school bus he takes every morning, his new friends and how much he loves school because he is doing so well.
I reveled in his enthusiasm .With the next breath he noticed the presents scattered neatly throughout the foyer and paused, “Do we get presents?”
Before I could respond, his attention caught another old friend of his and they ran off toward the tables set for dinner.
The positive changes Henry shared reminded me of what I always tell the kids here, who may be hesitant to leave the routine of our program center. Children get used to one environment and then it transitions: a new start in a brand new school, in a brand new neighborhood with a new home can be scary. The unknowing can be uncomfortable. Sometimes change hasn’t been so kind to them. So I tell them: Change here is good because change here can mean progress.
When I'm lucky enough to experience such a visit from one of the children I’ve known, witness such an ear to ear smile, and feel such tangible excitement, I am ever more confident saying that change here is good because change here can mean progress. Happy New Year.
Henry* = not his real name
- Mai Choua Yang