Saturday, November 2, 2013

Advocating for Change: Sometimes it's the Little Things

I treasure my adoptionland friends, both those I've met in person and those I only know online.  They're my go-to people when difficult feelings arise and are fantastic resources for information in a variety of areas related to adoption.  Sometimes though when I compare myself to others who blog extensively, engage in high-level activism, or are professionally involved in areas related to adoption, I feel incredibly insignificant.  This is a little blog with a handful of readers.  Though I write at Lost Daughters, my postings there are few.  Sometimes I feel like I don't quite measure up to those whom I see as doing the real work.

Water ripple
by alegri /

As I said in an earlier post, I tend try to bring about change in relational ways.  And maybe that's OK.  Yesterday morning I had a two new friends over for coffee, only to discover as we talked that one of them works for a local adoption agency.  The other has an interest in helping vulnerable children, and had considered volunteering with the Safe Families program. As the conversation turned to adoption, I quietly slipped from my chair at the kitchen table and walked toward my basement, pretending I needed to speak with my son.

What I really did was sit down on my basement steps, hold my head in shaking hands, and pray.

Before my guests had arrived, I had browsed Facebook.  As expected, some friends had made Happy Adoption Month! posts.  I understand that they love their children, but it simply didn't feel good seeing adoption blithely celebrated when there is so much about it that either brings me grief or needs reform, especially when the celebration will be going on for an entire month. Their posts left me feeling a little jumpy. I felt blindsided and not prepared emotionally for the situation I was in.

I didn't want to be rude or hurtful, but I also wasn't up to sitting through the conversation I thought was coming -- one filled with fluffy industry-speak designed to separate moms and babies in the name of "making dreams come true", entirely devoid of anything more than a cursory glance at deeper issues. But friends, God is good, and was not the conversation that was had.

Instead, we engaged in frank talk about adoptee rights, coercive practices, and the potential impact of the bills just passed in Michigan's House of Representatives, should they become law. We talked of Safe Haven laws and of the recent law suit filed by the State of Illinois against a large California agency. We spoke of the importance of preserving families and the lack of resources for struggling parents, and of how to balance the desire to see families stay together with the painful realities of the complicated issues which sometimes make that a difficult option. Though my friend who works in the industry and I did not see entirely eye-to-eye in every aspect, I was encouraged and even surprised by the number of things we did agree on.

And there were shared tears among the three of us, not quite shed, but still visible signs of empathy and compassion.  Each person stepped away from that table with sober recognition of the weight of the issues associated with adoption.

Will the conversation result in change?  I think so.  How could it not?  Even a tiny, seemilngly insignificant drop of water creates a ripple effect.

I'm also currently coming alongside a young friend experiencing uncertainty about her pregnancy due to her circumstances.  I can't make her decision for her, nor should I, but I can offer my love and encouragement, I can provide her with possible resources, and I can arm her with critical information.  It might not be glamorous or garner a great deal of attention, but its important to her and to her baby.  It could be life changing.

 And that's enough for me.

photo by tibchrisvia PhotoRee

The Starfish

There was an old writer that used to go to the beach in the mornings and walk, sometimes for hours, in search of inspiration for his writing. On one such occasion he was taking his walk and as he looked down the beach he saw a human figure moving like a dancer. 

The old man smiled to himself at the vision of someone dancing with the sunrise and continued on his way, curiosity having got the better of him. As he came closer he saw that it was a young man and he was not dancing at all. He was reaching down to the shore, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean. 

As the old man got closer he called out, "Good morning! What are you doing?" 

The young man paused and replied, "Throwing starfish into the ocean." 

"I can see that, but WHY?" "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in they'll die." 

The boy stated this so matter-of-factly that the old man was taken aback at first, wondering if there was some logic he was missing. He said quietly, "young man, don't you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and thousands of starfish all along it? You can't possibly make a difference!" 

The young man listened politely then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves. 

He turned to the old man with a smile and said, "it made a difference for that one." 
Based on "The Star Thrower" by Loren Eiseley


  1. Beautiful! This is exactly how I insignificant. Yet so thankful for the collective voice!!!

  2. I loved this post! These real conversations around tables and over beverages is where I think the real change happens. I agree with so much of the reform that is happening and support it, but the focus of my work is open adoption and opening closed adoptions. Sometimes I feel like the work to do is overwhelming.

    I thought this was especially powerful, "I can't make her decision for her, nor should I, but I can offer my love and encouragement, I can provide her with possible resources, and I can arm her with critical information. It might not be glamorous or garner a great deal of attention, but its important to her and to her baby. It could be life changing." My husband and I have been entrusted with this important kind of friendship on several occasions and have rejoiced as we've watched loved ones make the decision that is best for them--whether that is parenting, adoption or other options. It's a sacred responsibility.

    Anyway, thanks for your voice!

    1. Thank you Lindsey. It can be a delicate position to be in. On the one hand, I want to be sure she has enough accurate information that she doesn't come back to me months or years down the road if she choses to relinquish, and say, "WHY didn't you tell me??" On the other hand, I don't want to speak so forcefully that I alienate her in a way that either makes it difficult for her to process the information I'm sharing, or that would create a rift where she feels judgement if she decides to place. Either way, I want to be loving toward her. But oh my goodness, how I hope neither she nor her baby experiences the loss of separation from the other.

  3. Really good post and you do make a difference - you have a soft gentle voice and I think you can make your point better that way.

  4. Public radio had an interview the other day with a cult infiltrator. She spoke of how in her work she was not usually able to pull out the cult victims she had been hired to find, but she could plant seeds of doubt that would flourish later as the contradictions between reality and cult teachings become more apparent over time.

    1. Interesting. Seeds of doubt…yes, I think there is a correlation…sharing an experience or statistic different from the industry narrative.

  5. Hello,
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    (I am very sorry to leave this in a comment like a spammer!)
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    Dr. Grumbles