There are times that something is right in front of your face and you don’t see it.
I look back on those two days, and I’m embarrassed to say that it never crossed my mind. I had walked those steps over and over, and not once did I wonder how the children reached the third floor to see us. How in the world did a child who could not walk, climb three flights of steps. The answer breaks my heart. They made it up three flights of steps, because their parents carried them. Yes, they carried them up the hard, stone steps and then set them down at the top. Then they walked back down the steps to carry their equipment and belongings. There was no outrage, no cries of injustice, no grumbling…it was the way it was. They were simply grateful to be there, and I was simply blind to their sacrifice and journey.
We spent two days working with families that had chosen to keep their children. You see, at birth they were encouraged by a doctor to give up their baby. They were told things like, “this child will soon die, you cannot care for him”, “this baby is a burden, let us help you”, or “this child is deformed and will make your life bad”. They were told these things, and still they chose a family and home for their child instead of an orphanage or an institution. They chose to sacrifice daily, face public ridicule, and to stand against a philosophy that required they do things like carry a teen boy up three flights of steps, because their child is not valued or worthy.
Recently, I posted about an experience my middle son encountered, where he was stared and gawked at by a group of children. I made a plea to families to teach their children about differences and talk about the worth and value of every single person on Earth. Some of the responses were less than encouraging-
“People are going to stare at your kid, he’s looks different and he needs to stand up on his own”
“We already have to teach our kids so many things, here’s one more lady trying to cram something down our throats”
And just like the mamas carrying their children up three flights of steps, the whole point was missed. The very message that I want people to understand, is that this is not about one child standing up for himself. It’s not one more lesson to teach your kids. It’s not about teaching a child the need to defend himself and that words shouldn’t hurt. Instead, I want to share the point of it all.
Two months ago, I walked the halls of orphanages in Eastern Europe. I held cast-off children in a country that never taught their children the point. They never taught their children how to value difference and accept special needs. They taught the value of superficial beauty, material success and athletic prowess. They were raised never seeing “special needs” or “different”. These children grew to be adults who did not want to see the deformities or malformations and they chose to hide them away inside orphanages and institutions. They chose to believe that these children deserved to be put away; out of sight meant out of mind. It is for this very reasoning, that I receive messages on this blog saying things like, “this does not happen in my country” and “I live here, and these things don’t happen here”
Sixty days ago, I listened to the silence of an orphanage filled with sedated babies, and dressed the pressure wounds of infant- sized children twisted and fossilized by untreated contractures. And what I know is this, the lesson of compassion and human decency is not just “one more lesson to teach your kids”. The lesson of compassion and decency should echo through the halls of every single home and school, because when this happens, mamas are not encouraged to give their children to an institution at birth, they will not have to walk three flights of steps for therapy, and babies won’t lie sedated and dying. When we teach compassion and expose our children to differences, babies who cannot speak, will have others that will stand and speak for them.
This is not about my children and their need to be accepted, it’s bigger than that. It’s about mamas climbing stairs. Mamas that chose to stand against the pressures of a physician, ridicule of a community, and chose to hold their child tightly and climb those damn stairs. And for us, it’s about a generation of children that deserve the opportunity to learn about acceptance and love. And I believe it starts with strong moms….angry moms that will stand up to a philosophy of deep seeded beliefs about value and worth; and it begins in the home. It begins in your home. at your dinner table, during your drive home from soccer, and during those rare moments of quiet with your child. Here is your opportunity to talk about the most important lessons in life.
I have learned this very point in my own home. Israel has taught me THE POINT very clearly. He has taught me the best things in life, are wrapped in difficulty and challenge. The greatest growth comes with scars. And the deepest depths of fear, can shine the brightest light of hope. Adoption has dumped us into an ocean of need…hospital stays, endless diapering, IEPs, therapies, trauma counselors, tears, fear and struggles. It’s messy, and there are days exhaustion whispers defeat. But, at the end of myself, I have found a better life, a more rewarding life, a purpose.
Through the hard journey of adoption and orphan care, I have found that I am not so easily pleased by what I see around me. My eyes are not so tickled by the beauty of the external. I am constantly opening my eyes to what is right in front of my face. I’m realizing how silent and destructive pride and success can be. And I’m learning to be intentional in teaching my children compassion.
And first hand I have seen that words can hurt and they carry power. They can be used to uplift or used to crush. But what I find to be more destructive is silence. Silence in the face of injustice, is the same as participation. Silence to me, is an orphanage of unwanted children and nothing has ever spoken louder to my soul.
So many have asked about our adoption of Star. I visited her two weeks ago and she’s so beautiful. But the devastating truth, is that I wish the circumstances were different. I wish her mother had the support, the courage, and the ability to parent her. I wish her country could see past her limb differences and afford her opportunity.
Instead I sat the first day meeting my daughter, dumbfounded as a room full of officials asked how Israel was now able to attend school. Social services sat across from me and looked at pictures of the boy they had once had in their care. They wanted to know how it was possible for this boy to attend school in the United States because he cannot walk. How does he get to the second floor? How does he get around?
You see, children cannot attend school if they cannot get to their classroom on the second floor. And while I wish that Star would never have experienced the loss of her mother, I see that her country is not ready for her impairments. She cannot get to the second floor alone, and this is where a mother comes in.
She’s from the same orphanage as Israel, she’s had the same beginning as Israel, but she’s so incredibly different. Like each of my children, she is a mirror. Star shows me what my walk in life often looks like. Afraid to be let down. Afraid to fall, fail, or experience a world outside the orphanage. When I tried to set her on the ground to play, she shrieked in terror and shook. Her foster mom said she did not like to be “down, she is afraid.” How I understand her fear and how I, too don’t want to fail, fall, or be let down.
And once again, I am reminded that adoption is not rescuing an orphan, or saving a child. It’s about looking into a mirror and seeing bigger than yourself. It’s being witness to the miracle of love, the awesomeness of watching a child experience freedom for the first time. Its not missing for one second the life you once imagined you’d have. Adoption is opening yourself to the greatest adventure that will involve a swim in the deep, but I dare say that is better than drowning in a puddle.
And mostly, I am excited to climb the long flight of steps needed to help my daughter. It’s scary to climb those stairs alone, I’m ready and I know that together the steps won’t see so big.
Now, we have been given an incredible opportunity! The moms who are climbing the stairs carrying their children, are $8000 short of paying for an elevator. The total cost of the elevator is $24,000. One Heart Bulgaria is generously helping with a large portion, and they have asked if I can help come up with the last portion. So here is a link to provide a “lift” of love for these families. Will you come alongside these mamas who each month, walk those steps?