The military has used the sounds of crying babies to torture people. The noise calls to the lowest parts of our minds and says that something is wrong. When people hear a crying child their first response is to try to make the noise stop. Bottles. Pacifiers. Rocking. Anything to alleviate this sound that seems to drill a hole through our head. The cries of a baby are an awful sound.
At least that’s what I used think.
In 2006 my wife and I were in Almaty, Kazakhstan, adopting our son (our fourth child). In Kazakhstan they have traditional orphanages. Picture all the images you’ve seen in movies about orphanages, except much, much poorer. This one was in an old Soviet compound, surrounded by a crumbling stone wall.
For a few weeks before the adoption, we visited our sixteen-month-old son every day at the orphanage for about an hour and a half. Most days they would bring him to us. We would arrive and a worker would take a diaper from us and bring him back in the diaper and whatever random outfit they could find. Many days he wore pink tights decorated with flowers.
The workers sincerely cared for the children. They were simply overwhelmed. The ratio seemed to be about one to thirty, maybe more. On one particular day, no worker was available to retrieve our son and we decided to look in and see where he spent most of his time.
We cautiously stepped into a room full of cribs. About twenty cribs, each with a child anywhere from a few months to a year or so old.
My wife and I both stood there, feeling that something was wrong. The room was perfectly peaceful. Calm and still.
We looked to see if all the children were sleeping. Only a few. Some sat up in their cribs. Most lay on their backs. We knew from visiting our son that he was always hungry. They didn’t have enough to feed them all properly. Our son was sixteen-months old and weighed about fifteen pounds.
A room of twenty hungry children should be a cacophony of cries. Even if they weren’t hungry some of them should need changing. Some should want attention. Some should want to be held.
These children had cried once. It’s instinctual. A child cries to tell adults they have needs.
But if the child cries over and over and these needs aren’t met, if no one comes, they soon learn that crying is pointless. This was an entire room of children who had simply shut down. At that moment, if they had asked me to adopt them all I would have taken them.
Crying is the sound of life. The child is saying, “I believe that someone will meet my needs. Someone will come. Someone loves me.”
It’s a beautiful sound. The first time our son cried we knew something had changed in him. He realized that we would respond to his cries.
The next time that you’re somewhere that a child’s cries shouldn’t be heard, in church, at a restaurant, at a theater, remember this: it’s the purest call for love there is. Don’t hate the interrupting noise.
Rejoice that the cry you hear will be answered.