Eventually, the children all proudly wore their necklaces and we had practiced saying “God is love” in English and Spanish. It was then time for face painting. I bring more enthusiasm to this than talent but, fortunately for me, the Honduran children don’t have the same expectations as the kids at home do. There is also the fact that if they complain, I wouldn’t understand them anyway. They all seemed quite pleased when they saw their painted faces in the mirror.
Keila was the first in line. Tiny enough that I had to sit her on my lap to reach her cheek, she had soft curly black hair framing her face and plush long lashes partnered with her dancing eyes. Her smile was playing hide and seek, not really sure if it wanted to stay on her face, and her cheeks matched the pink of her rumpled Hello Kitty shirt. She was thin and bony, and smelled faintly of urine, as toddlers often do. She sat perfectly still after selecting pink paint for her flower but the first stroke of the brush made her flinch. I then let her hold the mirror so she could watch my progress. As the flower emerged, so did her smile and, when I lifted her slight frame off my lap, she ran off to show her teacher, shouting with delight.
Gabriel, after watching a much braver Keila, climbed into my lap next. This sweet, plump boy was all of five and he was bouncing. Popping corn would have been easier to paint than this child, but paint we did. He had a round face, a perfect circle broken by a small pointy chin. His hair was so short that his bangs sat on top of his head and he looked like he would be bald by the time he reached ten. His smile, in danger of bouncing off the side of his face, was stopped only by ears that were slightly smaller than Dumbo’s. He had big apple cheeks that scrunched his eyes into slits. His shirt and his necklace were on backward. It didn’t take long to paint a bright green ess across his cheek, and with a few strokes of red for a tongue and yellow for eyes, Gabriel was the proud owner of a snake.
Maria was next and I think she was seven. She looked resigned to accept whatever life handed her and I felt like it had already handed her far too much. She didn’t make eye contact and when she smiled at me, there was no smile in her eyes. She sat on a chair in front of me, her hands clasped in her lap. Her dark hair was straight and had been pulled back into a pony tail so tight that not a single strand of hair had escaped. It may be just a few steps beyond normal, but if I have a ponytail that tight, I also have a pounding headache. If I could have gotten rid of her pony tail, I think she would have beamed. She shyly chose pink, purple, orange, and yellow, which made me smile. Somewhere in that young girl a bright bouquet of dreams still lingered and, as I painted her cheek, I prayed that they might come true.