density

Yesterday we went to Guangzhou to take an oath at the U.S. Consulate. The Consulate used to be on Shamain Island, but because of the construction, that location has temporarily moved. So, our group had to take a charter bus into downtown Guangzhou.

The ride took about 40 minutes before rush hour traffic hit. My guess is that unless you have adopted, you've never even heard of Guangzhou. However, it's massive. New York City proper holds a little over 8 million people. Guangzhou's population is about 15 million people. Almost double.

Zooming out to compare larger metropolitan area, New York has 19.1 million people packed into 6,720 square miles. Guangzhou has 15 million packed into 2870 square miles. I'm not a mathy girl, but I need these numbers to explain some of what I saw yesterday.

Maybe some of you have watched animal-rights type documentaries villainizing corporate meat production in the US. If so, you've seen chickens crammed into little cages with little room to move around. They never see the sun. They never feel the grass under their feet. They live their entire lives stuffed into wire boxes, waiting to die.

I'm an animal lover, so this is sad for me to see. But what is much sadder is watching humans live in cramped, difficult conditions. Mile after mile after mile as we rode, I looked into skyscrapers full of TINY rooms where people live. Their only window was open seeking refuge from the heat. Limp laundry was hanging to dry in that few inches of window space. There is a density and vastness of poverty that I couldn't have imagined without seeing it.

I cannot find words to make the concept of "millions" come into color here. It was big like the ocean. Or like the sky at night. Or like the Grand Canyon. That sort of vast. Only vast with people in need.

I have never been exposed to suffering so vast that I could do NOTHING to change it. When I see needs in America, I usually feel like I could at least make a dent in the problem. But if I gave every ounce of my talent, resources, and time for the rest of my life helping these people, I would still be too small.

I have so much more understanding of the impossible job the Chinese government has trying to manage this now. Americans get angry because we hear stories of a one-child policy. We think in terms of our lush and spacious world. But if every family I saw yesterday had three children or four, the city would implode within a week. There is simply no more room for more people. I'm not a sociologist, but I can understand better now why human rights are an issue here. How do you advocate for the individual in the midst of a massive population crisis? Even if leaders had supreme intellect and perfect character, their job would be very hard.

Downtown Guangzhou is beautiful. There are parks, nice stores, and fountains. Just as in many US cities, there is deep poverty swarming around lush materialism.

I'm sure there are political commentators somewhere who would understand the why's behind all this, explain it away quickly with some sort of simple political or historical blame, and move on to another topic. I found myself seeking that yesterday, because blame provides an opiate for the pain I feel watching others suffer. Blame is how we are taught to transform individuals into "collateral damage" so that we can continue to function unaffected. Blame is the skeleton for our Western caste system. But I'm not able to be prescriptive yet.

Last night at dinner, I was talking with a friend about something that happened at the Forbidden City. We saw two beggars there, one missing a foot and one missing a hand. These people were literally crawling through filth, and they were so pitiful I just stood there and cried. Our guides strictly warned us about not giving handouts, so our group was obedient. One mother I spoke with even turned her children's faces away so they would not see his pain. This action haunted her for days, because most of our group is adopting special needs children. But for the grace of God, those beggars could literally have been our kids.

The line between "they" and "we" is continually challenged by this trip. That is a painful thing, but a refining one. I hope I don't forget it.

The transition with Moses is going very well. We are having so much fun with him!

However, for those of you who aren't very familiar with adoption and who will meet him soon, I want you to be prepared for some things that may seem odd at first. He is not yet able to handle training that JD and Clara could handle at his age. He is so cute and charming, it can seem like he is ready to just jump into the family groove. But there are still some scars in his little heart that need slow training. This means that discipline looks a little different for him than it would in another situation.

For three years, he has been spoiled in some ways and neglected in others. Considering what he has just experienced, he is in INCREDIBLE shape emotionally. However, he still throws fits and acts up sometimes. And though he is very smart (considering his lack of training), he is just beginning to learn what obedience and character mean. He has had to survive in group care, so what would be sneakiness or rebellion in a child raised in a stable home is basic survival for him. He has had to charm adults to get enough food and attention. And he has some infant-like behavior that emerges at random times.

The way our social worker described it (and what we are experiencing) is that some parts of an institutionalized child's emotions have grown properly with age, and others have been stunted at 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, etc. So, sometimes it can feel like newly adopted kids are "using" adults to get what they need instead of acting in sincerity. But they are actually just acting much like an infant would, in a big child's body. They have to learn authentic love and respect like a new language, and spend time growing through the baby stages of parent-child trust that they have missed. We have to simutaneously teach him infant trust and toddler obedience.

All this means... when you meet him, he may act whiny and spoiled sometimes. He may not respect "no" the first time he hears it. He will show off and try to get attention.

We are disciplining him, but we cannot just pop him on the butt and tell him to straighten up, because he doesn't yet share our framework for what is good or why good is desirable. This sort of training is a slow process that requires a lot of patience. And we have to pick our battles and let some things slide for now.

About every two or three days, we will have a yelling fit that lasts for up to half an hour. We quietly refuse to give him the harmful thing he wants (the object of his disobedience) while letting him know he is secure in love. But he is a very strong-willed little boy (thank the Lord!), and listening to this isn't much fun if you happen to be near when this happens. As Bobby says, it's just hard to be adopted.

I don't mean to paint a negative picture here. Moses is an absolute JOY and we spend 99% of our time laughing, playing, and exploring. His sense of humor is incredible, he is snuggly, and he LOVES to learn. We are seriously having the easiest toddler adoption transition I have ever heard or read about. Daily, it is obvious that this child was meant for our family from forever. I think you will see that when you meet him. We just fit together. And the Lord is providing tons of joy for Bobby and I during this training process. We haven't had a single moment of regret. Every struggle feels peaceful. Every battle feels worth it.

But it is a transition, so I think it would be wise to share our game plan with friends and family ahead of time, so you have the inside scoop on what's happening. I think it would be hard to understand the internal dynamics without a little heads up.

Better run. Kids are awake, and I need to make PBJ sandwiches.

Dana  – (July 30, 2010 at 10:07 PM)  

To steal a line from Back to the Future..you could say Moses is your density. Hehehe...

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About This Blog

Welcome to our family’s adoption journey. As you read, you will see us stumble and take wrong paths. You will see our hopes surge and fall. You will see the gaps in our humanity, and how our God realigns us to His purposes over and again. We think the messiness of this process is important. Sometimes walking with God isn’t a neat, linear package that can be summarized in bullet points. More often, life ebbs and flows around our plans, while God works His sovereign wonders from it all. We are learning so much through this journey. And we are super excited about our new son. If you’d like to join us, we’d love to have you along for the ride.

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