little shadow.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Let me tell you the story of a little shadow.

A shadow that is not my own, one that I didn't notice for weeks on end, but when I did - wove a friendship that is tight as ever can be, a tale of a little shadow that didn't let go.

This is little shadow.

She doesn't speak a lick of english, but she knows that love knows no language. For the past seven weeks, on my Wednesday night service projects to the Armenian Girl's Home, she became my little shadow. Following me around. Holding my hand. Sitting next to me. Never letting go until we had to leave. Just like another shadow.

Little shadow and I met on probably the 3rd or 4th week going to the girls home. I hadn't noticed her before, since she is pretty quiet and shy. She approached me and sat down. I spoke my few Turkish phrases, asked her what her name was and how she was doing. She smiled lightly and mumbled something. One of the other girls mentioned she doesn't talk much. I smiled and picked up her hand, as if to say "that's okay." That's the first time I ever saw her face light up. A huge smile appeared on her face and she threw her arms around my neck. What a hug for someone I just met! And that's how little shadow became, little shadow. As the week went on, our friendship grew despite the fact we spoke little to nothing to each other, and somehow built a relationship off hugs, hand games, dancing, dinner meals and our "name-the-colors" game.

Little shadow loves to smile.

Her face lights up when she sees me, when I sit with her, and when my Turkish is so terrible she just shakes her head and laughs. Leave it up to improper grammer to build a friendship that suffered from a terrible language barrier. Little shadow loves to love. She likes the colors blue, purple and pink. She likes to play a hand game similar to "down by the bay" as I knew it, but in Turkish. She has a pair of bright orange house slippers she wears everywhere, and dark black hair that is definitely capable of a china bun, which she may or may not have worn on our last night together.

Our last night together was bittersweet.

Even though this photo is from the second-to-last week, it sums up our time with the girls pretty well. Craziness happening all around. Smiles, laughter, and maybe a little bit of confusion. These girls have all taken root deep down in our hearts. All of us have our little shadows.

For a fun activity on our last night, we brought materials to make friendship bracelets, and braided small bracelets for the girls. Little shadow quickly grabbed pink and blue strings, and I braided her a single bracelet, then one exactly the same for myself. I put our wrists next to each other and said "Arkadaş," which means friend in Turkish. Her face lit up. She smiled the biggest smile I have ever seen and threw her arms around my neck. Little shadow gives the best hugs. Like seriously, she knew how to make me feel loved, and I hope and pray that she felt the same from me.

When the time came to say goodbye, I felt a tug in my heart that this may be the last time I get to see little shadow until...who knows when? I gave her a long hug, feeling that familiar feeling in my throat that comes when I know tears are near. I kept them inside of me, not wanting to let the girls see them. She seemed to notice something was wrong, and in reply to the silent tears bubbling up within me, held out her wrist - displaying the bright braided bracelet I made her and quietly said, "Arkadaş."

I almost lost it. This little girl, who barely knows me or my story or anything I constantly struggle with is perfectly content with our friendship. A friendship that sits on two sides of a language barrier but is full of love and joy nonetheless. I am going to miss little shadow so much. I laughed, smiled, and replied "Evet, arkadaş." She smiled, one last beautiful good bye smile, hugged me one last time and let me go. Let me go knowing that she may not be my physical little shadow anymore, but she will always be the little shadow in my heart. As we leave Turkey, these girls, and especially little shadow will be in my hearts and prayers as they grow up. I pray they grow up loved - remembering the love from us, but also from the love of our heavenly father.

When I arrived back home, I was irritated to realize that my bracelet I had just tied onto my wrist was falling off. In fear of losing it forever, I took it off and dead knotted it onto my keys, where I keep two other bracelets that mean a lot to me - a lucky WWJD bracelet from high school and my TOMs bracelet. I looked at it for a while, and suddenly I realized that little shadow deserved more than that. She touched my heart over the course of 6 short visits, and I wanted to make sure I never forgot her, ever. That's when I looked down and saw my lucky necklace.

Now, this necklace is no normal necklace. This necklace means the world to me. Gifted to me by my parents on my 18th birthday, it has a tiny guitar pendant and a small oval with the words of Philippians 4:13 on it. Last year I added a double heart pendant to represent my mom and I and everything we've been through, and how close we have become. I've worn this piece of jewelry everyday for 2+ years. Not a morning goes by when I don't reach for it and clasp it around my neck. It lies close to my heart (both literally and figuratively). I decided little shadow deserves her own place near my heart too.

I reached in my pocket and found a bit of extra string that I cut off after finishing my bracelet. I braided a few inches and tied it off, and then looped it onto my lucky necklace. I looped it around the double hearts and tucked back the extra string. It is the only part of my necklace that has color on it - representing the joyful color she brought into my life over the course of time at our service project. Every time I reach up to clasp this necklace around my neck, I will remember her arms reaching up around my neck for one more hug, and be reminded to pray for her and the rest of the girls who have touched my life during my stay in Turkey.

Here's to you little shadow.

I love you and will miss you dearly.
You are beautiful, you are loved, and you are being prayed for everyday.
I won't forget you, "arkadaş."

Respectfully submitted,

Here are a few more photos of our girls and their "little shadows."


  1. Leah, I'm crying right now reading this. What joy and love that even flows through your writing! I cant even imagine all the extent that Little Shadow felt that love from you that was love from the Lord. Thank you for writing! Love you, praying for you! Praying for Little Shadow.