At what age do we become aware that we belong to someone? How old is an orphan when s/he learns that most children belong to people who claim them, provide for them, delight in them, plan for their futures, are proud of them — but they don’t have that. They live on a compound with other orphans and watch some go to families, but some don’t. Why?
Imagine the courage to wait and watch and become a big kid. Imagine praying for a forever family for more than half your life. Imagine watching other children meet their families. Some of those kids kind and courageous and you might think, “Yeah, s/he is awesome. I wish I were cool like them, so I could be loved .” Some of those kids you’re probably glad to see the back of, but you might wonder why that little meanie gets a family, and not you, and you might wonder, “If s/he gets love and a family, and I can’t, what must be wrong with me?” Imagine carers in your orphanage, for whom this might be just a job, who might make careless comments about families from other countries, orphans, and the value of belonging. What if they tell you foreigners are monsters and will eat you?
What if there sometimes isn’t enough food? What if the food is not always fresh, but sometimes rotten? What if you aren’t always kept clean? What if you cannot leave your bed at night to use the restroom? What if other kids’ insomnia is your problem? What if, in waiting for workers to care for ‘all ’em kids‘, the individual goes days and days between one-on-one, face-to-face, sustained eye contact with an adult who says their name and asks about their day?
Congenital Hepatitis B, complete bi-lateral cleft lip and palate, orphaned at 14 months, into foster care at 4, At 5, he met another in a procession of short term visitors to the family educational center that employed his foster parent. The visitor had no plans to expand a family, no bent towards intercountry adoption, and less funds than she knew, when she saw his face.
Moved to America at 6, has been in 3 churches, had 5 surgeries, and just wants a golden retriever (I’m willing to negotiate for a basset hound mix, after the dogs we have, have crossed the rainbow bridge).
This man is brave. Real brave. Not “you-spoke-in-front-of-a-group brave”. “Pack your bags, believe a bunch of adults (who, let’s face it, up to that point, hadn’t done a lot to make themselves credible), take on a new continent, nation, culture, climate, language, cuisine (hated beans when he came here)” kind of brave.
He had no idea.
He loves about everyone. He serves quickly and wordlessly. He is generous with the smile, he’s endured so much to own. He cares about his family in a real way. He rarely complains. He works diligently on school work. He, plain out, reveres his sisters and their men. His faith and trust in Christ, lived out daily, challenges me.
At 15, he’s not perfect. His heart hopes for things not-yet-seen (golden retrievers and such).
Today is Marc’s Gotcha Day. It’s the day I met him at the Civil Affairs office in Xi’An, Shaanxi, China, and took him into my care and our family. Nine years into knowing his big, giant heart, we are the lucky ones, we are the blessed.
We had no idea.