by Paul Allen
Yogesh slipped his right hand on top of my palm. From above, my other hand clapped down. SMACK!
Just in time, Yogesh pulled his hand away, narrowly avoiding the “jaws of the alligator.”
Slowly, my hands crept apart again. Yogesh smiled, a dimple creasing his cheek. His eyes grew wide, locking in on my hands as he waited for the perfect moment to tempt fate again.
A second later, his hand shot towards mine.
“GRRR!” I shouted as my hands clapped together.
This time, Yogesh was not so lucky. The “Alligator” had caught him. I pulled him toward me and tickled him. His giggles filled the air.
Over our next three days at Dr. Edwards’ AIDS orphanage, alligator became Yogesh’s favorite game. And Yogesh became my very good friend. Each time we played, he pulled his hand away slower and slower. He loved getting caught. He loved all the games we played with them – “Monster,” Basketball, balloon animals… But most of all, he liked just being with us.
At each meal time, he would race to find a seat next to me on the floor. And then would sidle up close as he pushed rice and dahl into his mouth.
All too quickly, our last day at the AIDS orphanage had arrived and I dreaded the moment I knew was coming.
“This stinks!” I told Rynn emphatically. “It’s so hard to say goodbye to these kids already!”
I wished I could take Yogesh home with me. It was not right that many of these kids had HIV. It was not right that many had lost their parents. I wished I could be a dad for all of them. And especially for Yogesh.
Just before we left, we gathered with the children to pray.
“Yogesh,” Dr. Edwards called. “Please come forward.”
Little Yogesh pushed his way through the 25 other children to stand in front.
“When Yogesh first came here in 2005,” Dr. Edwards said, “he tested positive for HIV. For several months, we prayed for him. Then we had him tested again. The test came back negative.” Dr. Edwards smiled. “The doctor couldn’t believe it. He called in specialists. But none of them could figure it out.”
Dr. Edwards looked down at Yogesh affectionately. “Yogesh is our wonder boy!”