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  • I met a boy who reminded me of myself. He had locks of brown and eyes the same color, and in his face you could read volumes about his life. I sat down next to him in a tiny painted chair made for children. He just looked at me and smiled, a half-smile, really, like the Mona Lisa's. I didn’t know what to say to him, so I gave him the nectarine I’d been keeping in my coat pocket since breakfast, and he took it, again smiling. Slowly more children began to fill the auditorium, finding a seat somewhere where they could see the stage and not be bothered by the giant Christmas tree planted in the middle of the room. I asked him in Russian, “Can I take your picture?” And he nodded. After a few minutes the adults led the orphans in a series of Christmas games involving toilet paper and running around the room wildly, and suddenly we were in the midst of a great surge of youth and vibrancy, surrounded by dozens of smiling, laughing children. I turned to the boy and asked, “Why don’t you join the others?” He looked down and said quietly, “I’d rather stay here.” For whatever reason, I knew what he meant. If I were older and wiser, I probably would’ve encouraged him to join the rest of the children. But I didn’t. So we sat there together, content to spend the afternoon observing the world, as outsiders.
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