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Friday, April 29, 2011

A Time and Place for Everything

A few years ago, a famous American actress named Claire Danes flew to The Philippines to film parts of the movie "Brokedown Palace". . . does anyone remember this movie? I never saw it but I did read a LOT about the backlash after Ms. Danes described The Philippines as "a dump".  I recall hearing that Filipinos burned her DVDs and videos publicly and denounced her in the media. They would not patronize her movies and many theaters refused to even offer her movies.  I honestly don't blame them one bit. I would have done the same.
I'm sure the employees at the hotel where she stayed were extremely gracious to her. I have no doubt, because of what I know of the culture, that she was treated with deference and respect on her trip and how did she "thank" the people of the country? By being critical and ungrateful.

To a lesser degree, I see this same attitude SOMETIMES in adoptive parents. They often blog and speak about the conditions of the orphanage their child came from.  They share publicly how much dental work or "deworming" their new child required upon return home.  They lament the outgrown clothing and lack of shoes among the  children and express great pity for the lack of toys, resources, etc. that their child in orphanage care received.
I would caution parents that even if all of these observations are true,  sharing them publicly whether on a blog, facebook,  or even while speaking to a group at church is something that has to be weighed and taken seriously.
First, discussing those issues online is never a "private" affair. In this age of technology, a comment can go from Canada to Katmandu in mere seconds. Do you really want to risk  the people who loved your child, took him in at their own expense, prayed for and protected him,  seeing you tell the world how deficient his care was?
Second, often these types of discussions belie our feelings that we have "rescued a poor, pitiful orphan" rather than the truth of the matter which is that adoptive parents have been entrusted with a priceless gift.
Third, often (but not always) caregivers are doing the best they can with the resources at their disposal. Sometimes those resources are meager at best. In some countries, the governments do not spend any money at all caring for orphans. In still other countries, cultural biases against orphans is rampant. It is well known in the adoption community that Eastern Europe has a bad reputation for providing care to their orphans. What benefit is it for a family adopting from there to come home and cry out about the deplorable conditions of the orphanage? Will that effect cultural and governmental change or more likely, close the orphanage or country down to adoptive parents and trap babies there needlessly?  I can't say for sure but I wouldn't want to take the risk.  Our  American mentality tells us that we NEED to blow the whistle every chance we get. We are the justice makers in the world and kicking up enough dust will make someone take notice. That may work in some situations but, again, discernment trumps noise making any day!
Finally, I'd like to remind my fellow adoptive parents about the "toothpaste analogy" . . . words can not be taken back just like toothpaste squeezed from a tube can not be put back in.  Out of respect for your child, who will not be a "baby" forever, consider keeping their "lice, boils, chronic diarrhea, worms,warts and birth histories" a private matter.   They'll need to make friends in your community. They may go to school, church and parks with families who will remember the "contagious lip scum" story you told last year!  
Does this post imply we should never utter a word about the conditions from which our child hailed? Absolutely not! What I would encourage is that we, as adoptive parents, investigate WHY we feel the need to share these things, with WHOM they should be shared and what benefit will arise from sharing them.
If I have ever shared anything private about my  children simply to shock another person, elicit pity or make myself look more spiritual, I confess it now as sin and vow to never do it again!   When my kids are older, able and ready, they'll share what they want to share with those whom they trust.   Until then, Lord keep my lips (and fingers) from inflicting harm and help me to be a good steward of these marvelous gifts!


  1. I had no idea that movie was filmed in PI!! I always have loved that movie for some reason and that was way before we started the adoption process. Interesting...

    As to the subject matter of the blog, we will agree to disagree(; But I think it is very important as to how things are said, especially using a format such as the internet when things can be easily misconstrued. Words need to chosen wisely, while still keeping it real in my opinion.

  2. Thank you for the blog Nikki, and thank you for saying what needs to be said. I've seen and felt it when adoptive families post all their problems and issues, showing how they 'rescued' their suffering children.... I can't speak for all orphanages, but I can say this.. I have loved each and every child that has come through our doors, along with our other staff. These children have intense histories and pasts but they belong to those children. Yes, the family needs to know and should be informed.. but I see no reason why the whole world needs to know the individual past of every child, their lives are not television shows.

    Anyway, thanks again.

  3. nikki, you've nailed it once again. as the person who founded Gentle Hands, i say thank you.

    our orphanage has issues, no doubt about it. we can't afford to buy more land to avoid overcrowding, hence the headlice, the boils, the contagious things that happen when you put a whole bunch of very sick kids off the streets/slums into a confined space.

    we do our best with what we have. we have been 'stung' many times by the lice stories and teeth stories. we can't afford dental work for all the kids- we can barely buy food for them all.

    we too have head lice.

    we too get the boils.

    we too have to struggle to find funds to keep ourselves healthy because we are constantly in danger of TB and other communicable diseases because WE CHOOSE to put ourselves and our bodies and our children and grandchildren in CONSTANT CONTACT with these precious little beings who are filthy and sick when we take them in.

    thank you so much for being gracious, discerning, and kind.

    kindness is often sadly lacking in people's comments...how much nicer it would be to hear "this orphanage took in my dying child, fed her, loved her, and gave her to me"- the most precious gift ever.

    that would make it all worth while.

    instead of being embarassed and feeling guilty for not doing more.

    thanks again from the DEEPEST PART OF MY HEART.

    denie- founder of Gentle Hands, mother of Charity Graff the current director.

  4. As always Nikki I value your advice and wisdom! I have had my eye opening experiences from my travels. I want to learn to be more culturally sensitive and I want to honor where my children come from. I love that my children were loved and cared for at GH! What a privilege to be there and be part of such a wonderful family!

  5. i'd love to know who "Bill and cheryl" are and which of our treasures went to them! can you pm me their email? thanks, nikki.

  6. Denie,
    It's the newest 3 Alaskans (ha ha) . . Bill and Cheryl just brought three GH kids to the coldest state in the US (ha ha).
    On another note, Denie, your comment made me weep and I'm NOT a big weeper. I wept because I don't know what our family would look like if people with your vision and commitment did not exist. The preciousness of ALL of our children can not be put into words. I can not fathom the amount of "dying to self", "taking up your cross daily" and "forgetting what is behind" that is required to do what you and your family have done. I love that you obeyed the Lord all those years ago. The ripple effect is beautiful to this very day.
    For His Fame,

  7. thanks for your kind words nikki. and i do know bill and cheryl after all, just met them a couple of weeks ago!!! silly me.

    re the "sacrifice"...there is no sacrifice. we were called, and we said YES. this is what God called us to, and we rejoice in it. it's an investment in two things: THE CALL, and THE WILD LOVE AFFAIR WITH JESUS. heaven has no place for those who say 'maybe some day'. Jesus told his disciples- 'leave your nets'- and that's what we've done. you have to leave. you have to forsake. you have to embrace the beautiful cross, because if you don't, as you know, the pain of what you've rejected becomes greater than the pain of the cross.

    you know that song 'for the sake of the call'? that's our life story. :) and we count it all joy. we've chosen this life because He called us to it, and nothing else matters!

  8. Great post, Nikki. Thanks for putting this information out there.
    Megan (Evan's sister)