When we lived in China, I had the joy of teaching art at the orphanage. Although I loved spending time with the kids, there were weeks that I had to force myself to go. It was draining. I can’t imagine the strength the staff must have in order to daily care for the many special needs children that fill the rooms of the huge building. I had only seen a few of the rooms. The hallways extended past my imagination and past what my heart could bare.
But I went. I would give myself a little pep talk and bring to mind my favorite students who would be waiting for me at the windows ready for a break in their week. (I know I shouldn’t have favorites….but I did.) They would be wondering what goodies I was carrying in my bag. How could I disappoint them?
One of my favorite students was a five year old. Many weeks I would have to seek him out since he was in a younger group of children and bring him with me to class. He sat so tall, so proud to be included. He worked hard and produced amazing results in the art projects I taught the kids. His work brought praise from the nannies and me. A shy smile would curve his lips letting me know that his heart was beaming with the attention.
If we could have adopted one of my students — he would have been the one I chose in a heartbeat. (Well I think so. As I type this, another little girl comes to my mind. sigh.) Hepatitis B wasn’t scary enough to make my heart not long to hide him in my bag and take him home with me, never to return to the green hallways of the orphanage. I wanted to kiss his chubby cheeks and buy him Star Wars sheets that I would tuck him into every night.
But I couldn’t.
There are days that all I can do in order to survive is to not think about it. When I see the faces of my students in my mind’s eye, sadness rises within me from a place in my heart that I cannot describe. Yet, how can I not think about it?
Orphans are no longer faceless children without names. They are the dear ones I colored with who just happen to be growing up in an institution. They call the mint green hallways and cement floored rooms home. To me a child should never grow up in a room lined with multiple cribs filled with other babies and the bar windowed, cold building which resembles a school or hospital should never hold the title of home. When a child cries someone should come, but for my students the only caretakers they knew wore pink uniforms and were grossly overworked.
Now…Three years have passed. My student is no longer a cute 5 year old, but an 8 year old — still without a mom. I tossed and turned thinking about him last night. On one level, my heart was rejoicing. I got an email telling me that my sweet friend was having papers prepared so that he could be adopted. He has a chance! The orphanage does not need to be his home! As much as my heart soars at the thought, the part of me who understands the world of adoption won’t let me get to excited. An 8 year old boy. Almost no one steps forward to adopt an 8 year old boy.
For many perspective adoptive parents adopting an 8 year old is unimaginable. But then, they haven’t seen his sweet smile and the twinkle in his eyes. They have never stood before him as he proudly held up his latest masterpiece. If they had……
What many people see is an eight year old who has spent the majority of his life in an institution. He is behind in school. He has medical issues and would probably struggle at first to fit into a family. There is nothing I can write in this blog post to take away any of those realities. I also can do nothing to change the process of adoption. It is hard. It costs a lot of money. The paperwork is grueling. When the child finally ends up in a family, the hard work continues for life as we parent these dear ones who come from hard places.
As I type, all I can do is weep at the injustice of it all.
Right now, Little Man is sitting next to me coloring. My fridge is covered in his two year old scribble masterpieces. He was running around earlier with underwear on his head and he dumped the rice container out on the floor, while he was “helping” me make breakfast. He is a normal, active, curious 2 year old. I can hardly believe that just a few short months ago he knew nothing of a mom or our home. The joy we now have was made possible because an orphanage director took the chance that someone would see his face and be willing to call him son.
God made a way for our family. He moved mountains for us to be able to afford another adoption. He gave us the grace to care for Little Man’s special needs. God helped us to see him as son rather than orphan.
I want to do it again for my friend. I jokingly asked Soccer Dude if he could handle an eight year old brother. He responded without missing a beat. “We would need to install military like bunk beds in the boys room, but I could handle it. The question is can you, mom?” His words said in jest hit close to my heart. He is right.
Today, I want to despair. The thought of a family being found for my friend seems impossible – even my own family isn’t at a place to draw him in.
Lord, forgive my unbelief.
The first miracle has happened. His paperwork will be ready this summer so that he can be adopted. He has a chance.
Let’s pray for the next miracle.
May someone see him as son. May someone be wiling to step out and receive the grace needed to love him well — to love him as our heavenly Father has loved us and adopted us all into his family, our special needs and all.
If you feel like the young man I am describing could be a good fit for your family, please contact me. I can get you more information, his date of birth to locate him on the shared list and get updated information from his current teacher. I would be thrilled to help you!