Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Ironies of Life

The longer I live the more I witness the connectedness of life, often in ways that surprise me (though I'm old enough I shouldn't be that surprised any more). Today Claudia, Rand (our nineteen-as-of-yesterday-year-old son) and I traveled down to our county's law enforcement center (aka "jail") to finish up fingerprint paperwork for our upcoming homestudy update. Every time I drive by the law enforcement center I am reminded of the men and women inside serving time for overstepping society's boundaries. In particular, I always think of our son, Mike, who has spent two stints in this location in the past three months.

I have been to the Law Enforement Center a total of three times before today ... once to accompany Mike to get his fingerprint work done, prior to his jail time; once to attempt to lead a worship service, which was an abysmal failure; and a third time to visit Mike while he was in jail, on what happened to be my birthday. Today's trip was for less intense personal reasons, but the memories of my previous three visits always do something to make me a little ill at ease, especially knowing that I may well be visiting Mike again in this facility or one like it in the near future.

Anyway, we arrived, got ourselves buzzed in through the secure doors to wait in the lobby area, where we knew we would have a wait before being summmoned to the third floor (the same floor and location where I accompanied Mike several months ago, and a door away from the visitation area where I visited Mike while he was an inmate. There is something about the stale air of the jail, coupled with the secured doors clanging shut behind you, that remind the hapless visitor that life is on hold in a place like this. There are no windows for outside light to balance the harsh fluorescent lighting, no fresh breezes to dispel the muskiness created by numerous adult males (and fewer females) in small enclosures. The fingerprint room is the same room in which incoming inmates are processed. Bins of bright orange clothing and booklets of "Inmate Guidelines" on cold metal shelves surround a standard-issue desk with a plexiglass protective shield. The fingerprint machine is computerized, a much more sophisticated version than the last time I was fingerprinted with ink for Ricardo's adoption several years ago.

As I departed the waiting area on first floor for my fingerprinting, Claudia had just begun a conversation with a young man who asked if we were there for foster parenting licensure. She explained our situation, and I was a bit disappointed as I left not to be able to be part of that conversation. Disgorged from the elevator on third floor, I walked to the right, waited for the customary buzzer sound that indicated I could push open the large doors and was met by a corrections officer, who ironically enough, is our next-door neighbor. My fingerprints were complete in a matter of minutes, and I departed the area, glad to be moving back to the ground level of the facility.

Arriving back in the waiting area I was able to have a more extended conversation with the young man awaiting his fingerprint process. He and his wife serve as volunteer chaplains in a juvenile facility a number of miles from our community, a place where two of our sons have had stays within the past year. When we mentioned John's name he immediately said, "Oh, yeah, I know him." We didn't pry too much about his knowledge (sometimes we just don't want to know), but his diplomatic response was that John had always treated him fine. We didn't bother to ask about his knowledge, if any, of our son Mike.

It turns out, ironically (or not?) that he and his wife desire to become foster parents because they, too, are compelled by their spiritual commmitments to be engaged in the welfare of troubled children and youth. We encouraged their desire to proceed in that direction, affirming the value of people of faith rising to the opportunity. We explained in succinct terms how much our adoptive experience of eleven years has changed our lives, and mentioned that we are preparing to adopt our eleventh and twelfth children.

It was an hour-long experience full of ironies -- from my memory of Mike connections, to the visit we had with another person seeking a similar experience to ours, to the next-door-neighbor processing our fingerprints.

I have heard it said, "God is in the details," but I'm more likely to believe that "God is in the ironies." There are some things that are just too "coincidental" not to notice, and not to wonder if it is God's quiet way of saying, "Well done."

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