He was standing there, just as we entered the room. This was a second orphanage for our visit, and we were excited to deliver gifts on behalf of a WACAP family to their soon-to-be daughter. He stood vigilant, though, hands steadying his stance via the supporting bars of his physical therapy equipment, watching us. It was his perch for keeping an attentive eye on the goings on.
We went to work, but he kept catching my eye. We delivered gifts and learned of updates to share with this sweet child’s American family. We began to meet new children and learn their stories. Down syndrome, digestive tract challenges, lower body impairment existed alongside bright and inquisitive minds. These issues were easily observable. But you keep looking, when a child is right in front of you. When you meet their eyes, their story becomes so much more than a diagnosis. Their challenge is simply their challenge, and we all have one (at least). It isn’t their soul or their passion. It isn’t their potential. And, as the parade of children continued, there he stood, watching over the proceedings from his makeshift observation platform. He leaned in at times, scrutinizing notes that he couldn’t read or observing photography and videography capturing his friends’ faces.
And he began to cry.
Big, fearful tears rolled down his face and dripped onto his shirtfront, continuing on to the mats covering the floor. With no provocation, we thought. This got his caregivers’ attention, as they are a valiant and attentive bunch. They love these children, and want the best for them. They want families for these children. Good ones. Chinese or American families does not matter, as love knows no borders. They ran to him with a caucophony of exclamations in Mandarin. His sad reality is the duality of holding the attention of so many, while feeling so forgotten. This is what waiting for a family looks like.
Through interpreters, we learned that he was terrified we would skip over him. That we would ignore him. “He desperately wants a family,” they told us, “and he is afraid you don’t want to talk to him. He is afraid he won’t be able to have a family.”
Consider for a moment: the people you believe to be your only shot for a family, these people, are here in your room, so close you could touch them. And they are forgetting about you. They don’t care about your story, and your dream of a family is fading.
Can you imagine?
I was there, I’ve met several children like him before, and it still doesn’t seem real. Their sweaty grip on that hope yet to be realized. The fear that their chance is slipping away. The tears that they cannot hold back any longer. He is waiting, and so many like him. Perhaps, he waits for you.
During this trip, I have met China’s boys who continue to wait for families. In the U.S., a number of individuals still may not be aware of the many boys in China who wait for adoption, believing that China’s orphanages are primarily populated by girls, due to the historical one child policy (recently relaxed). Boys have always been a part of China’s orphan story, and last year, WACAP placed as many boys as girls.
These children are staggering in their resilience. In this case, an 8-year-old was advocating for himself the only way he knew how. His passion placed him next in line. This boy who struggles just to walk, was showing off, climbing stairs for us and eventually laughing at the time-lapse video of him using his walker, speeding him up to Olympic quickness. After a brief time of focused attention, he began to relax into these Americans who finally paid attention to him. We saw him, not just his diagnosis. We saw his determination and drive. We saw his sensitivity and humor, and fell in love with his smile.
He is waiting. His friends are waiting. Maybe his story has stirred something in you. I implore you to feed this interest of yours. Listen to it and discover how you might completely change the trajectory for a child’s life, through your activism, volunteerism, or philanthropy. Follow it to where it leads you, even if all the way to China.
Help us tell his story. Help us change his story. I invite you to contact WACAP and learn how you can help show him the way home.
Call us at 1-800-732-1887 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about this young man and his friends.
About WACAP’s CEO, Greg Eubanks: Greg joined WACAP as CEO in December 2014. Serving children and families has been the focus and passion of his 20-year career in nonprofit executive leadership and business administration. With an extensive background in international adoption and foster care, Greg is committed to bringing hope to the children living without a family … and helping them home.