It's one thing to know the huge numbers of orphans in the world. (Current estimates put the number at between 500,000 and one million in China alone.) It's another thing to know the actual children behind those numbers. The statistics alone can be overwhelming, so overwhelming that it is very easy to lose the humanity they represent. This is especially true for anyone who has not had their world rocked by spending time in an actual orphanage. And while I certainly don't advocate orphan-tourism, because of the negative effects it can have on the very real children who must live in them, there is no escaping the positive effects it has on the adults who visit. Because all at once those huge numbers and daunting statistics have a face... a personality... a deep, deep need to be loved and to belong to someone who will call them son or daughter. Everyone needs a place to belong, a sense of permanency, a promise of unconditional love.
It is impossible to meet even one of these children and not be changed. It is impossible to see their reality and not compare your own with theirs. And at least for me, it is impossible to view my abundant blessings and not wonder why I am hoarding them; to ask myself what my life is all about anyway. Be careful with those thoughts and questions, though, if you value comfort and ease, because the answers are anything but comfortable and easy. What do you want your life to say was important to you when you get to the end of it?
I hate the fact I am a finite person with finite resources. Advocating for children means hearing about them, knowing their stories, seeing their faces. It means I am confronted time after time with the enormity of what I cannot do. And sometimes there is a face or two that haunts me, who makes me wonder, "What if...?" even as I know the little fantasy I have created in my head has no bearing on reality. So I do the only thing left to me... I share what I know. I pray that someone else will see this child and need to make a difference in his or her life. To long for someone to say, "That is my child," or "I can't adopt, but I can make it financially possible for someone else to." Because, the cold hard truth is, if either of these children's adoptions were fully funded, there would be no difficulty finding a family for them. Reality stinks.
First there is Gracie. I've written about her before and even shown you a video that was made. She needs a family. Really, really needs one if her future is going to include more than being in an institution for the rest of her life. (And trust me when I say that would be the better of the two possible scenarios.)
She has cerebral palsy and needs a walker to move about. But should this physical challenge forever doom her to a life without a family? Since when does family membership come with physical requirements? She needs a mother and father to love her and make her their beloved daughter. Click on the link embedded in her name and read more about her.
And now Peter, the boy who keeps me up at night.
Peter is 13 and will turn 14 in just nine short months. For most children, turning 14 is exciting. It means they are getting older, high school is just around the corner, and a learner's permit is just a year away. For orphans in China it means the possibility of losing everything they've known. Once a child turns 14, they are no longer eligible to be adopted. It also means that depending on their living situation they are turned out of their orphanage. This does not happen to all, and there are organizations working to make the lives of older orphans better, but it is not a happy story. Can you imagine being considered completely on your own at 14? Can you look at your own 13 or 14 year old and imagine that beloved child in the same situation? It is wrong.
Peter will forever lose his chance of a family in seven months. Peter is blind, but has been living in a foster home which has taught him life skills. He can get around on his own. He can care for himself. He is bright and personable. And he is a musician. He sings and plays at least two instruments. He does not have a family. Seven months is time for a family to start from scratch and bring him home. It is not too late if you start now. How can any of us say we love children and let this boy age out?
Please, read about this child. Do something, for Heaven's sake. Because he breaks my heart.