It’s Children’s Week in Azeroth again! This is a really special holiday for me, and not because I’m a pet collector. Okay… some of it is because I’m a pet collector. But Children’s Week holds a special place in my heart that always leaves me crying some of the happiest tears I think a video game can pull out of me.
I went through the Alliance-Stormwind and Horde-Orgrimmar quests last night, plus I got to do the Shattrath quests (Horde and Alliance) and the Dalaran quests (I picked Roo) for the first time this year. I was glad to see the Stormwind and Orgrimmar quests have been updated for Cataclysm. I was also pleased with how NPCs involved in the quests interact with your orphan. The old quests always felt like I was escorting this kid around and no one cared… even though the whole week is supposed to be a special thing, and you’d think folks would get a memo telling them, “Adventurers will be bringing orphans in. Smile, answer their questions, and make sure they don’t steal anything,” or something like that. The new Children’s Week felt more like it really is a planned event that comes around once a year, and that everyone is putting forth an effort to make the week special for these kids.
Children’s Week is a week where every character gets to be a healer. The orphans of Azeroth do not live in 21st century First World nations. And no matter what bad experiences you’ve heard about foster homes, not every foster home is like that. I’ll say a little more about that in a minute. My point here is that Azerothian orphans are doing only marginally better than the homeless in Westfall. Some of them have never known life outside of the orphanage, and most of them probably don’t even remember their parents. They know what they’ve been told… that their parents died as heroes. They don’t get one-on-one attention. They don’t get toys. I’m not sure the ones in the Orgrimmar orphanage even get hugs. (That woman yelling, “It’s my way or the Gold Road!” at them scares me.)
The demons and monsters you fight during Children’s Week have names like “Lonliness”, “Grief”, “Out of Place”, “Misunderstood”, and “Scared”. They have no physical forms, and they are some of the hardest to slay. The Matrons tank them while the orphans dps them every single day. This week, you get to group up with them and be the healer.
Your reward is not a pet. It’s the love and admiration of a child. It’s knowing you have made such a difference in that child’s life that they trust you with one of the few things they can call their own… one of their own pets. That kid doesn’t care how many times your raid has wiped on the same boss. They don’t care if you didn’t do ICC until the 30% buff. They don’t care if you’ve been playing since Vanilla beta or if you’re a Wrath baby, or even if you just started last week. To that orphan, you are a Big Damn Hero!
One of the Horde quests was very special for me this year. I’ve written before about why I first decided to play a Tauren. It was because of my experience with taking my orcish orphan to see Cairne Bloodhoof and gets his hoofprint when I did my first Children’s Week as a Forsaken warlock. I expected to be taking this year’s orphan to get Baine Bloodhoof’s hoofprint instead.
The new quest is better than I could have possibly hoped for. If you haven’t done it yet and don’t want to be spoiled, start scrolling down now and pick up the reading after the second picture.
Even knowing I would be taking my orphan to see where Cairne’s funeral pyre is set up at the Red Rocks, I didn’t expect this to be his send-off. Baine Bloodhoof, Archdruid Hamuul Runetotem (who I always preferred taking my Tauren druid to for training), and Kador Cloudsong (a shaman trainer in Thunder Bluff) being there was a wonderful surprise! And when the spirits of the Elders showed up…
This was a comforting moment for me. I’ve never felt as comforted as I think I’m “supposed to” by the reading of the 23rd Psalm at funerals. It doesn’t seem to have enough to say about death and the afterlife for me. It’s a general song of praise that has a lot more to do with what happens while you’re alive. I’m not judging anyone who does find comfort in it during times of grief and loss. I’m not saying you’re wrong and don’t understand it. It just doesn’t work for me. There’s a scene in the movie “The 13th Warrior” (I don’t recall if the passage exists or not in “Eaters of the Dead”… the book the movie was adapted from.) where something the warriors say does comfort me, and Cairne’s funeral reminded me of it.
‘Lo, there do I see my father. ‘Lo, there do I see my mother, and my sisters, and my brothers. ‘Lo, there do I see the line of my people back to the beginning. ‘Lo, they do call to me. They bid me take my place among them in the halls of Valhalla, where the brave may live forever.
I have no evidence of it being a traditional Norse thing, and I’m of the mind that it was probably invented for the story. That makes it no less comforting to me. I like the idea of being judged by my ancestors and found worthy. Seeing that happen for Cairne during Children’s Week … going back to where my love of the Tauren people started… got me choked up. And no, I’m not ashamed to admit it.
I said on Twitter before I sat down to write this post that it’s semi-personal. There are a lot of horror stories out there about kids in foster homes. That’s because there really are some horrible foster homes. What we usually don’t hear about are the good experiences, or the experiences that aren’t so good because that’s just what the situation is… not because the foster parents are bad people.
I had a friend when I was a kid who spent some time in a foster home. Her foster mother had several foster children, including an infant, and she took care of those kids. She was in it for the right reasons. But a house full of kids can mean going without some of the luxuries many of us took for granted when we were growing up. Eating out at McDonald’s. Going to the movies. Having a birthday party. I spent the night in their home once because it was my friend’s birthday and that’s about all her foster mother could manage… getting her a cake and letting her invite one friend to spend the night.
My husband has an aunt who took in four foster children from the state they live in, and she and her husband have adopted them. Each of those children has severe medical conditions. One has austism, another has Muscular Dystrophy… I don’t know all of the conditions. But she knew they had those conditions when she took them. They will not have “normal” childhoods, but they do have a family that loves them and a mother who volunteered to help them fight their illnesses.
I have a neice and one nephew who were adopted through the state. I’m not sure anymore how we ever thought our family was complete before they came along. My neice can be a moody little thing, but that just means I treasure every smile and hug she gives me so much more because I know they are genuine. My nephew has taught me many things I failed to learn for myself in over a quarter century of life. I now know, for example, that chickens are smart because they poop eggs from their butts.
Adoption isn’t for everyone. If you want to make a difference in a real kid’s life, it’s just one option. You can also get involved in a mentoring program. Much like your Azerothian orphan, there are kids out there who would love to know they have regular times where you’ll come visit and spend some time with them… just them! Not with them and all the other kids, but be their very own “big brother” or “big sister”. If you live in Texas, you can support a program like CASA – Court Appointed Special Advocates. A CASA is there to make sure a kid doesn’t get lost in the system and become a nameless, faceless “ward of the state”. If there are court proceedings, they represent the interests of the child when they talk to the judge… not the interests of the state or a parents, or whoever besides the child is involved. If you don’t live in Texas, you can find out if where you live has a program like that, or find out what it would take to get one started.
Not everyone has the time or money to help other people’s kids, no matter how much they might want to. If that’s you, look at the kids in your own life. Maybe they are your own children, or neices and nephews, or maybe a neighbor’s kid who’s always trying to help you water your flowers just because they’re bored and want some adult to pay attention to them for a few minutes.
Make a day special for a kid. Just one day. Be a hero!