bananas and adoption

We graft a child into our family.  The child has always called another country home.  She had another mommy and daddy once upon a time.  She knows the sights, the smells, the sounds of Ethiopia or Korea or Russia.  Her “I am From” story did not include Kansas wheatfields or plastic-packed Walmarts.  If she could speak, she would tell you that America is not “the beautiful” to her; it is a foreign place.  Not home.

Some adopt because they want children.  We want children, too, and to us, it doesn’t matter if they come from our bodies or on an airplane.  We try to adopt with a heart like God’s.  He calls us to care for orphans, and so we follow, thankful that we can be one of the few fortunate adoptive parents.  We adopt because we find it unspeakably exciting to have a global family — so all of our children will know that the world extends beyond our street and our suburb.  We think we want to rescue a child — to teach him about God, and to give him a family again.  We consider the gift of a family as more precious than allowing the child to stay among all that is familiar.  But with all of its goodness and badness, “all that is familiar” is still home to that child.  We hope, that with a lot of love and time, the child will have a beautiful life, and we can be his heroes and his home.

I just finished reading Are Those Kids Yours?, one of the many adoption books on my list.  It was published in 1991, and its statistics are old, most from the 80s.  The last chapter is called “The Global Family,” and it’s dedicated to turning adoptive parents’ insight to the bigger picture, to see adoption not as a solution to the world’s problems and poverty, but only as a small BandAid over our whole global mess.  In spite of being an old book, I kept getting the feeling that this section had been written yesterday:

“In the account of his son’s adoption, Michael Perlitz referred to Honduras as a ‘banana republic.’  Indeed, it is the prototype of a banana republic.  It was governed by the Spanish for 300 years, and then after a brief period of independence, economically ‘colonized’ in the last century by North American entrepreneurs with the aid of military intervention, in order to keep U.S. markets supplied with food that doesn’t grow in our climate.  Bananas and other export products, such as coffee and sugar, are grown on large plantations, leaving little land to grow food for local use.  Agricultural labor is low-wage work, so the campesinos, or local workers, who pick the crops have little money to buy food….

“When rural Hondurans or Filipinos cannot make ends meet on the wages they earn and have no land on which to grow food, they have great difficulty providing for their children.  Some move to the cities in the hope of better opportunities that may not exist.  Often the father leaves and the family never manages to be reunited.  Relinquishing a child for adoption may be the only way to keep the child fed” (Cheri Register in Are Those Kids Yours?).

Cheri Register goes on to ask a few questions of her readers:

“What does it mean to feel responsible for these conditions?  If the world’s wealth were distributed equitably, what would the common standard of living be?  What would we Americans have to give up?… Can we in our daily lives make principled choices that, in the long run, enable these… families to provide for their children?”

I have bananas in a bowl on my counter.  I just bought them at the store this morning.  I think if I bit into one right now, I would be sick.  How many children have been orphaned because of American gluttony?

When we adopt a child, we will be providing what we believe is the best solution for that child.  But as one four-year-old adoptee asked his mother, “Why don’t the American moms and dads just send money to the Korean moms and dads so they can keep their children?”  We have to ask these questions, not to wrack ourselves with guilt, but to embrace the responsibility that is ours.

I sometimes wonder what God sees when He looks at the world.  Could He teach me how my purchase of a T-shirt made in a sweatshop in Asia leads to the abandonment of a child by its raw-fingered, empty-pocketed, ostracized mother?

I look at the problems and wish I could say, “It is only this sinful world.  There’s nothing I can do.”  But that just doesn’t work when I feel responsible.

  1. Wow!
    Yes I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments here.
    It reminded me of this quote from Gandi ” We must live simply so that others may be able to simply live”

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