Saturday, March 10, 2007

A Surreal Experience – Two Boys Touch through a Pane of Glass

Unpacking the Trip – Part 4

While the last post was all about what we did on our second full day in Ethiopia, this post is about the conflicted heart that I had.

My heart was troubled because I was simultaneously experiencing both an intense joy and an intense pain. I felt an unbelievable amount of joy as we finally were able to meet and begin to get to know our new kids. I also felt an unbelievable amount of pain as I saw around us the suffering of so many others.

I have been to third world countries before (Honduras, Peru, and Kenya). I have even been to third world countries when there was a drought (Zambia and Zimbabwe), but I was younger, more naïve, and doing the tourist thing so I did not (or chose not?) to notice the tragedies around me.

This experience was much different. Ethiopia seemed poorer and the plight of their people more difficult. My heart was more involved since we were adopting some of their children. I knew more and I was desperately trying to see through the American scales on my eyes.

But looking with new eyes can be painful. On this second day I was riding in a mini bus with the other families that were adopting that week. We stood out on crowded streets, especially when many of the crowds are beggars desperate for money. Unemployment in Ethiopia is 47%. This means that the disabled have virtually no chance of getting a job as well as many able bodied workers. And so they turn to the streets, looking for coins with which to buy bread. The healthy, the disabled who are healthy enough at least to crawl to the streets, women carrying babies, and children are all there. At a rare stop light our mini bus paused and a young boy, about two years older than K.D., came up to the window to beg. When he saw K.D. in the van along with all of us "forengees" (foreigners), he got excited and K.D. and the beggar boy started speaking rapidly to each other. The beggar boy put his hand on the window and K.D. did likewise. K.D. turned to me without taking his hand off the window and was yelling. "Papa! Papa! Papa!" He wanted me to look – to see the boy.

I did look. I did see the boy. And I was seeing past my American scales. And what I saw haunted me.

I saw a world full of children. I saw that the children had no control over where they were born. I saw some kids being born in America, some in Europe, some in China, some in South America, some in Ethiopia. I saw the more than 4 million Ethiopian orphans along with who knows how many more living in poverty. And I saw two boys, touching though a pane of glass. One of those boys was being thrust into a life with all that the world could offer and his future was intensely bright. The other boy must fight for survival begging on the streets of a poor country and his future looked intensely dark.

The light turned green. We pulled away. One boy was left behind.


Rhonda said...

I am moved beyond words. My daughter and I leave within the next week to get my two new daughters from Ethiopia. Could I share your post on my blog site? It is heartbreaking, but so thought provoking...=-)Rhonda Crowl

CrazyD said...

It is fine to share this post (or any post) on your blog. Feel free to respond to this comment with your blog address so others can read about your adoption experience as well.

I hope you have a wonderful trip to Ethiopia and everything goes as planned as you unite with your two new daughters!

Anonymous said...

What happened on day 3 and 4 and 5?

You said you visited a number of different orphanages what did you do at them? I understand going to the one where your kids were but what and why the others? I would think it would just make the kids left behind feel bad (why not me).

We are tring to figure out the best way to help children around the world. Are we better off helping a couple children a whole lot (like you did and bringing them into our home) or sending money and resources to help a lot of kids a little (but not really solving the issue for any of them)

Having seen both sides wondering if you have any thoughts?

CrazyD said...

I plan on posting about days 3, 4, and 5 of our trip sometime soon. Life has been busy, as I am sure you can imagine.

Great question about visiting other orphanages and wondering if the kids might feel bad. All of the children at our kids' care center were/are waiting for their adoptive families to come and get them. They understand that their day is coming. We did not take our kids with us to the other orphanages, so the kids would not have known we were adopting. Not every American is an adoptive parent. They probably do understand, however, that some of the kids around them get "claimed" by someone and leave the orphanage. I am sure this must raise feelings of "why not me?", although not necessarily tied to our visit.

Also, one orphanage was particularly excited about us coming and said they would like for us to sponsor an ice cream party for all of the kids. We were happy to follow their lead and assume they know better than we do what is best for the kids. The children were happy and filled with life and seemed to enjoy the attention and diversion that our visit provided. In addition, the workers seemed appreciative of our visit and the donations we were able to bring with us.

Your question about how to allocate our limited resources is a tough one. Should you do more for a smaller number of kids or less for a larger number of kids? I am not sure there is a right answer, but I have found that I feel more comfortable if I am operating on multiple levels. From donating funds to the work that others are doing, to short term mission trips, to adoption, it seems good to have a life focused on helping others in need in many different ways.

Heather Friesen said...

I'd like to recommend that, if adoption is not for you, you could sponsor a child or two (~$30/mo.). When we travelled to Ethiopia to adopt our three children last July, we visited Mission of Mercy's child sponsorship location in Addis Ababa. We were very impressed and came away seeing great value in child sponsorship. The children receive at least one good meal a day, a uniform for school, an education, and a social worker who looks in on the family to assure that medical needs are being met. Mission of Mercy even extends help to the parents of sponsored children through job training and home construction.

To help even more children, host an event at church or at work so that more people can become child sponsors. I think informing others and getting them involved is a great way to positively impact more children/people.

CrazyD said...

Great thoughts Heather. Thanks for sharing. It is true that adoption is not for everyone. Sponsoring a child is a great way to contribute to the needs of a child.