The China Sessions: 1 "Cora" -

She hit me the very first day.

 It was a hard, unsmiling "NO" hit to my hand I held out to her in friendship. 
I didn't understand, but I smiled full back into her eyes,
 and slowly withdrew my hand, as someone else climbed into my lap. 

She never returned my smiles. Her eyes were closed off. 
She stood stiff, turned away at all the events. 

Day 2 I gained some better understanding - she was autistic
It explained everything and suddenly the "No" hit didn't seem so hard. She didn't know me. 

Thursday, the 4th Day, we decorated t-shirts with the older kids, and I'd seen her down the line, 
drawing so slowly with someone hovering over her.
 I didn't want to mess up any connection happening, so I didn't go over. 

I was helping one of my favorite little guys draw lines of grey and green all over his shirt, when she walked up.
I'd been shooing away the other kids who wanted to draw on this little dude's shirt, because he saw it as "ruining it".
I'd just told the translator to tell the other kids to stop (kids will be kids, haha) 

She walked up. For the life of me, I wasn't going to shoo her away. She picked up a marker. 
I held my breath and waited for the inevitable wail of dismay from the little boy. There was none. 
Just a glance up, and resumed his artistic lines. Well then. All was peace here. 

She didn't look at me, just held out markers for me to uncap and mashed them hard onto the shirt. 

Then she saw my heart necklace from The Vintage Pearl. (all the kids adored it, by the way)
She was enraptured with it. She fingered it, and flipped it around to hear the jingling as the pearl hit the silver.
She looked into my eyes, solemnly. She held the heart in her hand. 

I pointed at the large red heart on her shirt, drawn by a helper: "Heart", then at my necklace "Heart". 
"It's a Heart. I placed her hand over my heart beating, "Heart", and over hers "Heart". 

I asked J-boy who spoke Mandarin and was a team member what "Heart" was in Mandarin. "Xīn", he replied. 

I looked straight into her eyes: "Xīn - Heart. Hearts." 

Hearts became our connection. She would hand me markers and I would draw hearts,
and point to the heart on her shirt. "Xīn" I drew a moon and she painted yellow blog "stars" above it. 
We became a team. Her studying eyes seemed more open and smiling. She was still, not stiff. Quiet. 

When I stood up to get something, I felt a hug on the back of my legs. 
When I turned around, I was astonished that it was her. 
I said "Wō ài nï": "I love you", and hugged her back for the brief moment she allowed. 

It was such a dear, unexpected moment of joy because I never dreamed *I* would reach
the unsmiling, untouchable, unexpressionable one. But Jesus did. 

She led me by the hand into the hall, but halted as others rushed by her in a loud storm.
I hated to see her courage shrink into such sad quietude, so I felt for her hand,
and lightly took it in mine, so limp and unassuming.
We rode the elevator up to the 5th floor together, but she was "gone" again. 

She had marker splotches on her hands and had noticed me cleaning mine with my tissues and lavender spray.
She held the tissue packet and crinkled it against her ear, and sprayed that lavender spray until it floated in the air. ;)
Then she held her little hands out to me and looked up in question. 

I ever so gently began to rub stains away and wash the hands that hit me the first day. 
Tears filled my eyes as I thought of when Jesus washed his disciples feet, and when Mary washes His feet in worship. 

I was washing her hands - the hands that Jesus made in a little girl in a pink coat with hearts on it. 
The hands that belonged to a little girl with bangs and a perfect pink mouth and serious dark eyes.

A girl He did not make a mistake with. 

A girl who liked my heart necklace and with one uncertain touch - stole my heart.

She reached out and I was there. So this is love. This is love. 

One week ago, I said my goodbyes and left. It was the last day, and when I entered the classroom,
 she looked up at me with a shimmering radiance and smiled at me. It felt like the world shattering. 
My little autistic girl took my hand and placed a puzzle piece in it. A puzzle piece of blue sky. 

How I wish she knew what it was like to fly in that sky. 
I brushed her cheek, told her I had to go, said "Wō ài nï", 
and she smiled again: a breathtaking smile.

 Hearts. Smiles. Hand Holding. Hugs. Blue skies. 

She wasn't available for friendship the first day. Or the next. Or the next after that. 
But the 4th Day she reached out and touched my heart, and Day 5 she knew we were friends. 

She taught me Patience. Waiting. Trusting. Tenderness. Servanthood. Willingness. Courage. 

She taught me the beauty of an opened love. She, my autistic girl that had no English name. 
I've struggled with it all week, all day. Until tonight, when I googled a name that literally means: "heart". 

Cora. Heart. 

You'll always have my heart. "Wō ài nï. "

 - Jean Marie -