When we decided to adopt our son, Ian, we could confidently tell you a few things about him. He was seven. He was living in an orphanage in China, and he had an upper limb difference. We could also tell you that the adoption process was filled with lots of paperwork and tons of waiting. From our adoption classes, speaking with families who had adopted, and the books that we read about the topic, we could tell you with some confidence that there would be difficult times and challenging conversations. However, we never would have told you that we were adopting a village, but we did. Let me explain…
First, our adoption agency connected us with other families who had recently adopted or were in the process of adopting from the same orphanage in China. These initial connections became the inner circle of our village where we exchanged tips on paperwork or travel and shared photos from the orphanage. During our time in China, this group was a lifeline for me sending me encouragement and support when I was exhausted physically and emotionally. And over the past 19 months of being home, they have cheered for us during every milestone and shared stories that have helped us piece together Ian’s early years.
Recently, many families from this group gathered together and eight children who were adopted over the past three years were able to play and laugh together again. I watched in absolute amazement as Ian splashed and swam alongside his earliest “siblings.” The same children, who I had stared at in so many photos from his orphanage, were now in front of me smiling, playing, and being embraced in endless hugs from their families. It was truly an unexpected gift that was only possible through this village.
There are many other unexpected places where our village has grown like the grocery store or doctor’s office. For example, the clerk who witnessed me talking to Ian through Google translate at the checkout during his first trip to a grocery store has become a villager and always asks how he is doing. The nurses who administered six immunization shots at lightning speed during his first visit to the doctor’s office ask for constant updates and celebrate every inch he has grown. Then, there is the team at Shriner’s Hospital who have redefined for Ian what is possible. They cheered and gave him high-fives when he rode his bike through the hallways of the hospital with his new bike hand. All unexpected villagers tied together by one little boy.
Then, there are Ian’s friends and their families. There’s the family who embraced Ian before he was even home and had him over for his first play date when his main mode of communication was through Google Translate. Another family who played rounds of Connect Four with Ian at their home and laughed as he beat them all. And most recently, the farm family who had Ian over for his first sleepover where he fed the chickens, cared for the horses, and learned how to use a lasso. All of them and so many more have become a part of our unexpected village.
Finally, there is Ian’s village at school where the teachers embrace him with love and support. They take photos or video capturing moments of his first field trip or presentation knowing how important these are to us and Ian’s story. Their eyes fill up with tears at our end-of-year meeting when they discuss Ian’s progress, and they understand my tears as I listen to every report.
I wanted to share our unexpected village with you because it is such a beautiful part of adoption. I thought we would be on our own navigating this journey. Instead in the 21 months that Ian has been in our lives, this little boy has brought an entire village into our hearts, and I am deeply grateful for every single member of it. Believe in the Possible!