A simple encounter at the bus stop that rocked my soul.
I was waiting with three of our kiddos. Par for the course, they were playing and oblivious to all that was going around them. Picture a lot of laughter, noise and a bit of running around my legs. I was enjoying watching them play when I grew self-conscious that we were being watched.
Nothing new about that.
When out and about we are constantly watched. We hear comments like, “Four kids? Really?” and “Are they all yours?” and “They don’t all look like you. Two look like you and two look Chinese.” Usually I take it in a stride. I understand that for a population where one child is not just the norm but the policy, we are bound to draw out comments and stares.
But I had never heard this one.
A middle-aged couple was standing off to my left and I heard the woman comment to the man, “She could be our child.”
A wave of shock rolled over me and before I could think twice, I was starring into the woman’s eyes. I am positive she assumed I couldn’t speak Mandarin and wouldn’t understand the comment she made. To be honest, I wish I hadn’t understood her, looked up or reacted. When our eyes met – both mothers who understand grief and pain that should not exist in the world – the understanding in our eyes was full and real. She stepped around behind the bus stop and hid herself from me. I asked the children to stop playing so as not to make her pain more intense.
There is no possible way this woman was connected to our Little Monkey. Her birth place is hundreds of miles away. We were simply a symbol to this woman. Grief over what could have been? Wonder over what is? Hope that her child is in a family playing with siblings? A memory that had been hidden and now was pulled forward?
The encounter brought forward some emotions that I can forget in the daily routine and joy of life. My joy is someone else’s loss. Just because there are so many unanswered questions surrounding the early years of our adopted children doesn’t make them not exist. There are real people living lives with the memories of children who belonged in their arms.
Weekly, I see the reality of lonely hurting children who live their lives in an institution, and I want to question the people who chose not to care for them. Daily I am blessed by the love of two children who did not grow in my womb and sometimes I lose sight of the painful reality that the people who could not care for the ones I love now may still be out there wondering about them — wondering what their lives are like.
But it goes even deeper.
In relation to the majority of the world, I am a rich privileged woman. I have access to resources, health care, community support, and I have a voice. It stinks that the majority of women…mothers…in the world don’t have all of that…which at times result in some painful realities. It is injustice. When my children are playing around my legs and filling my life with laughter, I want to rage against a world where poverty is real and an injustice.
The woman at the bus stop – she brought my privilege up close and personal.
Those of us who are rich and privileged (dare I say that would be everyone reading this blog) we can do one of two things. Do something with our resources and ease the suffering of the orphans of the world and speak out against the injustice that creates orphans to begin with….or we can pretend.
I have looked into the eyes of orphans living in an institution. I have looked into the eyes of a suffering mother who can not parent her child.
I no longer can pretend.