I have become, over the years, a morning person, but this morning started early even for me. Typically I like to be in the office by about 7:00 AM, but this morning I am here almost an hour earlier than usual. I was awakened earlier this morning with our youngest son Dominyk's plaintive cry that he had a bad dream about spiders (he has a dread fear of any kind of creeping, crawling things, which is quite ironic considering how fully he embraces the dirt and grime of nature in other ways). After he settled himself in our bedroom recliner and fell back asleep, I awakened after a nightmare of my own. It was a strange, convoluted collage involving my sleeping in a deserted cabin in the middle of nowhere, only to be awakened by police surveillance helicopters which landed nearby and then stormed an occupied mobile home. I watched as one of the police officers was shot by the suspect, and then witnessed the suspect being subdued with gunfire as well. During the whole dream, of course, I was vividly watching all the events (kind of like the "omniscient author" description I learned about back in eighth grade literature class) without being personally engaged in them. It was an unusually strange dream for me, and by then it was close enough to my usual awakening time that I decided to simply start my day. As I was getting dressed Claudia mumbled to me that she had just had a dream in which we had adopted five more children, a sibling group. So, the early morning hours for the Fletcher family (or at least a portion thereof) has been oddly chaotic, and we are not even awake yet!
In the quietness of the morning I began to think a bit more about what I had preached about Sunday. The Gospel text was the account of Jesus' visit to the home of Martha and Mary. While Martha works feverishly to prepare the meal and surroundings for her guest, Mary sits with Jesus to hear him speak about less material matters. Martha is unhappy, and summons Jesus to rescue her by reprimanding Mary and telling her to get busy. Instead Jesus corrects Martha, saying that Mary is doing the "better" thing. I developed in my sermon the concept of action and reflection, talking about those of us who are by nature "do-ers" and those of us who are "be-ers."
So this morning as I thought about the days gone by and the days to come in moments of reflection, I realize how much life can change as a result of a "simple" action. I cannot imagine how different my life would be today had I not joined in agreeing with my wife that adoption was not only philosophically and ethically a noble proposition, but that in order for adoption to make sense we needed to take action. Early on I tried to convince her and myself that perhaps we were not the best candidates to bring into our home children whose histories were scarred and whose futures were questionable. During the training process (and our pre-adoptive training process was quite excellent) I wondered whether we would really be able to do what was necessary to care for "other people's children." I didn't know whether I had the emotional capacity or strength of character that would be required. And I didn't. At that time.
But the thing about personal growth (I would probably speak here about "spiritual development") is that until you take some action, you never know. And even then you never really know. You simply take one step after another, learning as you go, doing your best, changing when you must and remaining steady when you cannot. The adoption journey, especially with older children, is fraught with risk and challenge every day, but it is also replete with joy and blessing.
I grew up as a fairly sheltered child. There were few other children my age in the rural area where I grew up, so I became accustomed to adults long before peers. In the homogeneous community in which I lived I did not meet an African-American person until I was in third grade, when a family moved from the Chicago area to begin a dentistry practice. I never met an Hispanic-American until I was in college. But, interestingly enough, during my grade school years in a small, northern Minnesota community, I met all kinds of kids with special needs, although I didn't recognize it at that time. There were kids whose parents were neglectful, and who bounced around from foster home to foster home. There were many kids who parents drank far too much, so there was never enough money for the basics of life. There were more than our share of teenage pregnancies, underage consumption and illicit drug use.
So I wasn't exactly immune from the difficulties of society. But it's one thing to witness from a distance those challenges, and it's another to embrace them by adopting a child or children who have known only dysfunction and transition. To bring a child from a chaotic environment into one that is stable and secure is a rather daunting task.
But we have done it, and we are doing it. We learn something new each day, but I can't imagine our life's journey any other way!