"What's the hardest part of adoption?"
We get asked this question often. Oddly enough, it's the easiest question to answer. If you would have asked us this two years ago before we dipped our toes in this amazing, but difficult world of adoption, our answer would be the same as it is today. It's not the paperwork or the money or the travel or the trauma.
The hardest part of adoption for us can be summed up in two words: only one.
In the sea of precious faces that parade across your screen in advocacy posts and in the room full of adorable toddlers at Titus's orphanage, the reality that you can only help one child at a time is crushing. According to UNICEF, there are 153 million orphans worldwide. That's 153,000,000 precious eternal souls alone. 153,000,000 individuals forever abandoned. And 153,000,000 children left incredibly vulnerable.
And that's overwhelming. Frustrating. Heartbreaking. And highly discouraging.
Each of these lovely and lonely children need a forever family, but you can only bring one into your forever family at a time. There are no words to describe the depth of helplessness you feel when you turn your back and walk away from hundreds of eternal souls, while holding only one precious child in your arms. You know you will change the life of this one child forever, though leaving thousands behind to a desolate fate.
But what if there was family after family after family running to these precious souls? What if there were no beloved children left behind and condemned to, as one aged out orphaned boy put it, a "life worse than death"?
Children that are orphaned are both the easiest global issue to solve, as well as the most difficult. Some worldwide problems, such as droughts in Africa or cancer or natural disasters, require specialized teams of scientists, doctors, and other experts, as well as millions of dollars to solve complex dilemmas.
Well, I'm not a doctor or a scientist, so don't expect me to help cure cancer or stop epidemics or rebuild infrastructure. I'm not highly trained or highly educated, but I am thankful for those who God has gifted to solve these global issues. I'm just a mom. I can't solve big world problems, but I can hug a grieving soul. I can cut up food for a little mouth. I can create a loving environment where a child can physically and mentally feel safe. And I can open my arms to adopt a child into my family.
But it's also the hardest global challenge to roll your sleeves up and dive into. Because, unlike other issues, you can't leave the concern at the office, in the lab, or on the other side of the world. You can't hop on a plane, sweat your soul out for two weeks, then fly back to your cozy life. Adoption calls you to open your heart and home to a vulnerable child all day and all night. To give your everything to parent this child in possibly different ways than you yourself were parented or how you parent your biological child. This call never ends, quits, gets a day off, or even a sick day. However, each smile, each laugh, each new word learned, each milestone met makes it all worth it.
Yes, it might be for only one (or two!) in 153,000,000, but I am making an eternal difference in one child's life, helping to transform one person's story forever. "Adopting a child won't change the world. But for that child, the world will change." (Unknown)
When I think about the staggering numbers of cherished little faces in cribs at my son's orphanage and the millions of precious souls around the world, I want to despair. To stay paralyzed. To think I'm powerless to help.
But then I remind myself of "The Starfish Story" by Loren Eiseley. An old man saw a child throwing washed up starfish back into the ocean. He pointed out that there were thousands of miles of beach and more starfish than the little boy could ever save. The child politely smiled and said, as he threw yet another one back into the water, "But I made a difference to that one."
So what's the hardest part of adoption? Being able to make a difference in only one child's life at a time. But, if each of us that are called to be God's hands and feet help transform one child's life, there would be 153,000,000 orphans minus one. Then minus one. Then minus one. And someday there would be no more orphans, only forever loved and treasured sons and daughters. That's how we resolve this mind-boggling global crisis, one orphan and one forever family at a time.