The little girl stared at the multi-colored lights on the Christmas tree and sighed. She’d never seen a more beautiful tree. The lights reflected off the old-fashioned mercury-glass ornaments, seeming to bring everything alive. Mariah thought to herself, ‘This is what hope looks like.’
“Come child,” the social worker said as she pulled the girl’s arm roughly. “We must get you processed and to the orphanage. It is Christmas Eve, you know.”
“No, I don’t,” replied the dark-skinned beauty, her big brown eyes full of wonder. “We don’t have Christmas in my country.”
“Of course you do,” the woman grumbled. “Everyone has Christmas.”
“We don’t. I only know about Jesus because of missionary who visited our village. She was kind to me. She told me His story. It made me cry. Was He real?”
“Hush, I don’t have time for this,” the middle-aged frump replied, looking at the child over the rim of her glasses. “I have my own family to get home to. I can’t mess with you all night.” With that, she pushed the child into a tiny room and slammed the door, mumbling. “They’ll be with you in a minute. Now behave yourself so we can make this quick.”
Mariah looked around the sterile white room and began to cry. More than anything she wanted her mother. Sadly, she knew she would never see her again. The death squads had taken her. No one ever came back from there.
A young Air Force sergeant had found Mariah sitting alone in the dirt crying. He scooped her up and put her on a military transport. Then he sat down to talk with her, hoping to help locate her family.
“There is no one,” Mariah told him in the English she’d learned from the missionaries. “My mother is gone. I have no one else.”
The sergeant held her while she cried and then promised her he’d do what he could to get her to America. He’d kept that promise. She was here but it wasn’t quite what she’d hoped for. It was beautiful. It was wondrous. That was true. However, the immigration people and social workers had not always been kind. They seemed to resent her. She didn’t understand why. All she wanted was a home.
Another middle-aged woman made her way into the small room. She at least smiled at Mariah and held out her hand. “I’m Mrs. Perry, Mariah. It is a pleasure to meet you. Do you know why I’m here?”
“No,” the child was afraid to meet the woman’s eyes. She didn’t want to see any more disapproval.
“Please look at me, Mariah. I want you to understand that I’m here to help you.”
Mariah ventured a glance into the woman’s green eyes. What she saw there finally put her at ease. She’d seen the same look in the eyes of the airman who saved her. It was called compassion.
“How do you like our country so far, Mariah?”
“I love the Christmas trees. They are so beautiful. So is everything else,” the child added not wanting to sound ungrateful.
“Have you never seen a Christmas tree before?”
“No, we don’t have them in my country. Most do not know about Jesus. I only know because a missionary told me His story. But I wonder if it is true or make believe.” Mariah moved nervously.
“I believe He is real,” the woman responded. “Because I believe that, I really want to help you. It is my responsibility to do so.”
“I do not understand,” the child muttered. “What is responsibility?”
“Jesus taught that we should all help one another. We are really one big family, connected by our love for Him.” The woman blanched slightly. “I’m not explaining this well.”
“No, I understand,” the child interceded. “Like mother and I took care of each another. Is that right?”
“You are a very quick study,” the woman smiled. “I have good news for you. If everything goes right, you won’t be going to an orphanage tonight or at all.”
“Are you sending me back?” The little girl jumped from her chair and moved against the wall in horror.
“No,” the woman hastened to assure her. “I’m sorry if I frightened you. What I mean is that someone has already expressed an interest in adopting you.”
“Really?” The child’s eyes grew big as she moved back to the table. “But I have met no one here who seemed to want me,” she mumbled. Reaching into her coat pocket, she pulled out a Raggedy Ann doll. “Only Mr. Martin,” she said wistfully.
“Is he the man who saved you?”
“Yes, he was very kind. He took care of me until I got on the transport to come here to America. He gave me this doll to remember him. I miss him.”
Tears formed once more in the child’s eyes as she hugged the doll tightly. She didn’t hear the door open behind her nor see the man walk into the room.
“I missed you too, Mariah,” a masculine voice said.
“Mr. Martin,” Mariah screamed with delight. She jumped from her chair and threw herself into the waiting arms of her friend, showering him with kisses. “What are you doing here?”
“I got a leave to come see you,” the handsome young military man responded. “I wanted to give myself the Christmas present I’ve longed for my whole life.”
“What’s that, Mr. Martin?” The girl looked at the man in awe.
“A daughter. I’ve dreamed of a little girl since I was small. Do you think you could fit that bill?”
“I do not understand what you mean by “fit the bill” but I would love to be your little girl, Mr. Martin.”
“Then, try calling me Dad just to see how it feels.” The man squeezed the child tightly to him.
“Really?” Turning to the lady, her eyes questioning, Mariah asked, “Is this real? Is he really going to be my father?”
“There are still some things to be worked out, Mariah, but it looks promising,” the woman responded, brushing a stray tear from her cheek.
“Then I know Jesus is real,” Mariah cried with glee. “This was my Christmas wish!”