147 million

yesterday I went to adoption clinic…and I think it gave me PTSD in reverse.

Although some times I get PTSD forward as well…The smell of urine,  sunbeams through a barred window, the feeling of chapped hands, the smell of stale bread and boiled cabbage….  These are the things that take me back to being 19 yo, young, idealist who walked down the OTHER hallway at child protective services in Bucharest…

July 13, 2004 (from my journal)

Eerie silence echoed through the long, narrow, gray room. It was frozen in time; the light from the singled barred window on the far side seemed listless, much like the occupants of the cribs. I tiptoed over to the first crib:  there was a heap of brown curls wet with tears, sweat and urine scrunched in the far corner. At the sound of my footsteps, she jerked her head up from her hushed sobbing and looked at toward my quiet steps, scars of untreated infantile galucoma clouded her sky blue eyes. How could a eight year-old know such grief, such fear? I reached down to pick her up:  she was weightless it seemed. I let her down gently to the floor. She stood slowly, her tear streaked face seemed to come alive.  She held my hand with a death grip:  don’t let go, don’t let me go.  She walked with careful steps fearful of the monsters she could no longer see.  At the dark end of the room, another crib had been pushed away from the others.  .I heard the sound of metal striking metal against the rail of the crib. Then I saw a hand and unnaturally slender wrist is covered with red welts and oozing blisters. I peer into the crib and discover the etiology of his suffering. A single piece of cloth encircles his other wrist and the bar of his crib. I gasped, on the sign above the stated this child was 14 but he was the size of a toddler. His head was grotesquely mishapen with untreated hydrocephalus. No wonder she was so afraid, no wonder she grieved. This was not a hospital for disabled children, it was a prison.

I am haunted by these children…orphans…some abandoned because of poor resources, some because they are members of my tribe and their families left them and the stigma of raising a cursed child behind,  some born on the streets, some badly abused and taken for their own safety. But all left in a pitiless system that devalues their potential and slowly teaches them and even molds them (both physically and emotionally)  that they are not worth it.

And don’t  think this is about Romania or even Eastern Europe.   I could tell stories about the slums of Nairobi where children die of dehydration, HIV and TB and no one cares.  I could tell you about young beautiful African teenagers selling themselves to survive.And don’t think this is about the developing world either. There are 888,000  children in foster care in the US.   And I shudder to tell you the stories I see every day on the pysch Ward, in the ED of abuse, neglect or kids who have never known a stable environment in their 10 years…who can tell you the top drug lords of their housing project are but can’t find the state they live in on a map….

But yesterday I saw the other side…. White people from the suburbs who I half expect to invite me to a Wednesday night church supper or run into when I shop at the uppity grocery store in uptown who have adopted from China, from Ethiopia, from the Ukraine and yes from the US of A.  People from the culture I grew up in who went to the cultures I live and work in now and brought back a child. I saw one little girl who had just come from China a week ago…she has a clef palate.  In two weeks she had advanced 2-3 months developmentally. In just 2 weeks…. I had tears in my eyes taking her history.     Because I have seen 100s of these children , room after room of babies who get fed and changed twice a day who never learn to sit up or crawl or walk much less talk or interact not because they are not capable but becuase no one holds them.

And I was overjoyed for this little girl…for this chosen one…..  But what about the others…..a 147 million others. What about them?  I found myself wanting to scream this loudly at these parents.  “WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER BABIES???”   I didn’t of course because I knew that I was being absurd.  Its just that while I love the idea of adoption and I think its a beautiful reflection of what Christ does for us…. and I admit I even plan to adopt myself  one day… its a drop in the bucket.

147 million is a lot of drops…I want to answer the question why babies get abandoned.  I want to be about de-stigmatizing disability/birth defects in the developing world, preventing HIV in Africa, decreasing maternal mortality in the 10/40 window,  changing the way cultures think about little girls, building sustainable economies in nations so that families can keep their babies….

we are called to care for orphans and widows….but what does that mean in our modern world? what does that mean as spoiled, pretentious, well-meaning Americans… ???   I don’t know the answer but the longer I reread the gospel and the more I travel the world, the more I realize that the redeeming, trans formative answers are the ones that make me in my home culture and yes in my home religion the most uncomfortable. My prayer is that I am ready and willing to look beyond my own fears, my idealism and my own bias and believe that its possible. TO believe that there are at least some answers and be ready to radically follow my God in search of them.

all 147 million of them.


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