The four-year-old boy in the orphanage in the West Bank wanted only one thing. Cappuccino. He begged my friend who had promised each child a gift. She could not resist.
This is not a story about caffeine or what children “should” imbibe. This is a story of a child’s need to be loved.
You see, the children in the orphanage watch television a lot and there is an ad or a sitcom where a family drinks cappuccino together. He wants to be in that family, and in his mind they have adopted him, or he has adopted them.
When my friend returned a few days later, the boy ran across the large room to embrace her and ask if she had brought him cappuccino. She had, a month’s worth and the means to make it, and chocolate powder to sprinkle on top.
“You must share,” she said. “No, this is mine,” he said, and clutched the package to his chest.
She showed him how to make cappuccino and sprinkle the power. He sat cross-legged on the floor and drank it, slowly, contemplatively, putting it down quietly with both hands in between sips, as though he were listening to other members of his family talk.
Then he would pick it up again and sip until it was all gone.
After that day, he would do the ritual with the family on the television at their allotted time together. He made himself part of the family.
We are social animals and, yes, he knew the other orphans were called his “family,” but he needed his own.
After the month my friend replenished his supply. It is my belief he will drink cappuccino, and the other intense coffee variants for his life. He is Palestinian after all.
My friend told me the story in a luxury apartment overlooking NYC. We had just returned from lunch in a fine restaurant, followed by cappuccino. For me, decaf, which I prefer with almond milk.
It was a superb cup, but did not give me a family. It was a moment with my friend who has changed the lives of thousands of Palestinians.
Children make do with what they can. We all need embracing, we all need connection, but children need it most.