Celebrating Katya

January 2007  -  Ann


Birthdays are a big deal in Russia!  I guess they are in America too but we have enjoyed watching how the Russians honor each other as they celebrate their births.


We have gotten to attend several of the birthday parties that the ?You Are Not Alone Club? has given for the kids.  Usually once a month is designated as ?birthday party night? and whoever has a birthday that month is honored.


A special meal is prepared ? maybe an extra salad to go with the weenies and macaroni that they are serving.  (Because the center is operating on a tight budget, they have to get pretty creative to make a ?special meal?.)  And of course, there is a birthday cake that is a real treat for these kids.


When you have been raised in an orphanage I don?t think you get much of a celebration or recognition that it?s your birthday.  That?s what makes Club feel like family.  They notice!  AND they celebrate!


By the time Katya arrived for Club this particular evening the signs were already hung on the curtains, ?Den Rosdenya!? with colorful balloons.  Zhenya, our master photo shop artist, had taken a photo of Katya on New Years Eve with her in a fun, feathery mask.  She was beaming a million dollar smile.  He blew that up and added some of his special touches and that was displayed for all to see.


That night we had a regular Club meeting and then dinner together but after dinner the festivities began for the birthday girl.  The cake was brought out, ?Happy Birthday? was sung (in Russian and English!) and she blew out her candle on her cake.  Wow!  To be 18 again!   We all chowed down on a delicious tort and drank chai.


Then they had several fun games.  The one that touched me the most was when little post-it notes were passed out to everyone.  On one of them we each wrote one thing that we liked about Katya.  The other one we wrote our wish for her for this coming year.  Everyone took this very seriously and was busily writing on their special pieces of paper.  Then Katya was put up on a chair in the middle of the group and we stuck our notes all over her as we sang, ?Happy Birthday? again and danced around her.


Usually I am not fast enough with my camera to capture those ?priceless moments? but I think I got a pretty good one here (click photo to enlarge) of the guest of honor.  Can you see that in her face?  She was being honored and cherished.  And she was loving it.  I wonder how many times she has gotten to feel that way?  We all deserve to feel that way because that?s the way God feels about each one of us.


And I love Ludmilla in the background whooping it up in Katya?s honor.  Ludmilla is the director for the ?You Are Not Alone Club? and she has an official job description, but this is so much more than a ?job? for her ? these are ?her kids? that she is pouring her life into and cheering on to make it in life.  Her husband, Sasha, Robert and I, as well as four dedicated volunteers are also part of that cheering team.  We?ve got quite a squad!


As the kids were packing up and preparing to go home, I watched Katya take her special photograph off the wall and carefully place it in her sack with her other treasures.  I wonder how many photographs she has of herself on other birthdays.   She had meticulously stuck all her post it notes together and placed them in her sack as well.  I wonder also how many notes of affirmation she has received in her 18 years of life.


The kids taught me that night that you don?t have to have expensive presents or fancy meals to honor one another.  There are lots of ways to express, ?we are glad God made you and we want to celebrate that fact.?  What a great gift I got ? and it wasn?t even my birthday!


And as I consider the cheering squad that God has raised up for these kids I realize that there are many that they will probably never get to meet, at least not on this side of heaven.  The financial supporters and prayer warriors that are sending us and keeping the doors of the club open - they definitely are part of our cheerleading team!  Thanks to all of you who are on the squad.


And, if you?re not on the squad, you?re always welcome to join in.  There are no tryouts or rejections.  We can use all the support that comes this way, because there are many more Katyas to celebrate.