Author's family, San Diego
I sat down to write about Alexis, who is Bring Hope to 12 in 2012's featured child for May. I wanted to write from the perspective of the non-adopter who just wants to help. There is not often a place for people in this adoption community who are not adopting children. So why should a person who is not adopting, care about orphans?
When I first learned about Alexis, an orphan with arthrogryposis living in another country who was waiting for parents, I knew very little about her. We shared a name, Alexis, which I learned was not even her real name, but it was better than listing her as a number. (Believe me, when talking about children it's not a good idea to say, "Hey did you see that forty-six is still waiting for a family?" Much better to make them human.) At that time in my life I had a little daughter with arthrogryposis who rocked my world. I couldn't imagine leaving her in an orphanage just for having that diagnosis. I just couldn't. And it made me feel sick that Alexis was doomed because of arthrogryposis of all things! It's a treatable condition that makes the best, smartest kids! What the heck?! YOU WOULD BE LUCKY TO GET A KID LIKE THAT!!! *breathing again* *counting to ten*
So anyway, Alexis' only real option for a better life was to be adopted. I couldn't adopt her. For one thing my husband said no. For another thing... no wait, that was it. And before we got married we had these discussions. We wanted two kids. We never wanted to adopt. Typical family of four bliss. I remember having this conversation when we were around 16 or 17 years old (to answer your unasked question, yes we started dating when we were babies) and again when we were engaged in our early twenties. Even if we never had children naturally we didn't want to adopt. Adoption was not something either of us was comfortable with. International adoption? Forget about it. So when I first discovered Reece's Rainbow and all these kids with arthrogryposis (a condition I knew like the back of my hand... until that mole showed up... I'm sure that was recently) for the first time in a long time adoption seemed less awful, more natural. Hey, my husband changed his faith once on me during our marriage, so I felt like I could change my mind on adoption and equally freak him out. Even steven, honey!
But as a non-adopter, with a heart for international orphans with arthrogryposis suffering in institutions, I felt powerless. And so many people told me it was not my problem, and were baffled at why I cared.
So why care for orphans if you're not adopting them? Aren't they someone else's problem? Well, if you belong to a major religion, most hold caring for orphans as a good deed you should do. Muhammad once said that a person who cares for an orphaned child will be in Paradise with him, and he motioned to show that they would be as close as two fingers of a single hand. In Buddhism, acts of compassion are highly valued, including adopting kids out of these conditions. "Be fruitful and multiply" is the first commandment in Judaism; children are at the center of the Jewish vision of family life. Today, more and more Jews are choosing to fulfill that mitzvah through adoption as the ultimate good deed. Now I know only superficial things about these religions, but caring for orphans seems to be a religious good deed. Heck I have an atheist friend who has adopted two kids with arthrogryposis. It's just a good deed. Period.
But it's just a good deed. Instead couldn't you plant a tree or be nice to the lady at the grocery store?
Not for me. For my own faith based on the Bible, caring for orphans is not just a good deed, it's nothing short of a command. As one adoptive parent posted, the Bible is full of commands from God to care for the stranger (someone not in your own country), the orphan and the widow. Caring for the stranger, the orphan and the widow are repeated over so many books of the Bible that they seem to be God's very heartbeat. Alexis' description matches two of those three qualifiers. She must be someone VERY close to God's heart.
And unfortunately for my down time, but fortunately for orphans, I'm not a neutral party when it comes to what the Bible says. If I've chosen this faith then I'm suppose to be a servant (slave, doulos) of God. And therefore I'm clearly commanded by the Boss to care for orphans.
I can't not do something! (My mom wouldn't like that sentence, but you grammar people know what I mean.) My own faith condemns me for hiding from Alexis when she needs an advocate! She needs a voice! I know not everyone can adopt, but (and this is the hard part) everyone can care for orphans. Everyone. We can share on social media sites (I have Facebook), on our blogs and to our friends. We can donate our money to support families. We can give our daughter's clothes to those who are adopting children. We can offer to babysit. We can pray and pray and pray. And we can write these families and tell them all that so they don't feel so alone.
I've got to say though, the logistics of being a non-adopting orphan lover totally made me *that* person. Come on, you know what I mean. You've probably already thought that reading the above paragraphs. Here's an example of *that* person. All of the sudden my Facebook posts go from, "My daughter did well at physical therapy today!" (45 likes) to "Help support this orphan with AMC! Read more about her here!" (1 like) And not just that, I've had the weirdest reactions from people of faith too, who supposedly read those commands in the Bible and then label caring for orphans "a calling" and opt out. They like to say, "That's something for very special people to do. But you and I should live our lives." Um... no.
Then there's the problem of not really being part of the "adoption community" either. When passionate people like No Greater Joy Mom is blogging about how we have less excuses not to adopt than we think, and shows us the grim reality these kids face... ugh. I almost want to change my profile information to read, "Broke homeless teenage satanist" to avoid the inevitable question of, "If you love this orphan so much, why don't you go rescue them!" (Because I think my husband would eventually notice them in the closet!)
Then there are the adoption blogs that have those dreaded "Look Who's Visiting Our Site" thingies on the side. I love those. Not. At the top of the list is, "A visitor from San Diego, CA!" Then (I swear) a blog post shows up where the family says, "We've been so blessed to have visitors from all the way in California!" And, okay, I LOVE my home state and would not think of moving anywhere else with actual real weather where I could not wear flip flops all year long, but we have a bad rap. The couple adopting from Indiana will have 100 visitors from Indiana on their blog, at least 50 randomly from Texas and then me, San Diego. I'm San Diego. It's almost like they should just put my full name and address since I stick out like a sore thumb. How in the world can I bounce my IP address off a nice computer in Austin maybe? Tell me!
So it's not always easy, but being an adoption advocate, being a child advocate, has been the best, most rewarding decision I've ever made. It's like following the heart of God because it is exactly that! Alexis was one of several kids I got to see go from orphan to chosen. If you've never experienced this, it's like nothing else. Much like an incredible ending to the best movie you've ever seen, the Duvals swept in and claimed Alexis as their own! She was their precious daughter. And it's my job/duty/command to support that family in every way I can. That means I share on Facebook (3 likes today! Woot!), and I donate my extra money, and I pray and I pray and I pray.
I invite you to join me.
<<<epilogue>>> Last December my husband, broken by something he read about orphans in Eastern Europe, said yes to an orphan with arthrogryposis. This non-adopter, who never under any circumstances wanted to adopt, who already had this discussion and the answer was no, finally gets to put skin in this game. We were proud to be Bring Hope to 12 in 2012's January project. This is our Joel (who we'll name Roland):
Our adoption was fully funded in ONE MONTH. We will travel to meet our son in a matter of weeks. I hesitate to include this because our story is so not the norm. Most people don't have the paper-thin excuses not to adopt like we had. They have legitimate excuses, and as non-adopters in an orphans crisis (over 140 million orphans worldwide!), they have equal footing in the work ahead. I don't feel like I am now finally living out my faith any more than when I was helping others adopting their kids. In fact I was just getting used to my role, and now I'm one of *those* adopting parents. I try to be better to people who are non-adopters (since that was me for years), but you know those parents who hated when people asked them when they were having kids, but once they have a kid then they turn around and pressure you to do it? Yep. It's hopeless. You should all adopt! Don't listen to me! But seriously it's doable. You don't have to adopt to support orphans! But... my kids need adopted friends! SEE I CAN'T HELP MYSELF!!!
My point is that we are all important. I've been on both sides and we are all invaluable. Orphans don't care who you are! Don't treat caring for orphans as optional in your life. You'd miss out on following God's heart. Alexis needs support. I'll give you a dare. Take your first step in supporting her personally by going here. You won't regret it.