Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cutting Dreams

With so many things I love about the Lighthouse Project, it seems petty to blog about the one I don’t. But since it slapped me last week and threatens again now, I call it fair.

Coordinating Lighthouse Project trips is exhaustingly labor intensive; oddly, the bulk of the work is seeking host families. Through nine trips, I have found I need to speak with ten families on average to find one host. My goal is finding one per week; a good week nets two.

Though I am never slothful, my efforts aren’t always requited. At those times, my friend Hope calls; as director of the program, she has a gigantic heart for children. She’ll tell me we need to cut kids from the trip because they can’t travel without a host. Sometimes she spends sleepless nights thinking about it. Before, she’d choose who was off; lately, as I have gained experience, she’s asked me to decide myself. Crueler still, sometimes I have to rank them.

So I ask myself, which girl should seek employment in prostitution when she’s not adopted? Which boy might be part of the 10% of aged-out orphans who commit suicide? Which child, needing just a chance, should I deny?

It’s not exactly a feel-good job.

This past week, I had to remove kids to eliminate need for six families, but I cheated a little and just picked six kids. I settled on a sibling group; Andrei, a boy who already came twice; Alexandra, a girl about whom I knew nothing; Dmitry B., a boy Hope liked; and a girl who was ill during her interview. Even after prayerfully weighing each situation and doing my best, there was no satisfaction.

When Hope saw my list, she wanted Andrei on the trip. It worked out splendidly: within hours, a Missouri family who had been praying almost two months called to say they wanted to adopt him. He was off the trip, but for the right reasons. (Transformed, 11/8/08) Hope said Dmitry B. was a “good boy,” so he’d travel, too. That day, I saw Alexandra's interview; ultimately, I had ranked her first to come off the trip, since lacking information makes promotion impossible. After seeing her, I couldn’t leave her behind. While she was not charming, she exuded neediness, and need always trumps charm. Alexandra told about a group of younger orphan girls she’d befriended; she visits, eats with, and plays with one particularly special five-year-old. Alexandra hoped to be included on the trip, and she wants a mama and papa. The neediness cooked my plan; she would travel, too.

As I ponder how to champion our upcoming trip to Moscow, I have no experience to summons. I have statistics on my Lighthouse Project trips to the States, but it seems risky to extrapolate between US and Russian versions. Finding hosts willing to travel to Moscow has been an uphill battle, even though the cost to fly, stay, sightsee, and eat in Russia is only slightly more than hosting here.

Hope told me yesterday to decide again whom we retain for Moscow. Having a host family keeps a child on the trip, but now the discussion revolves around which kids are even options for travelers. So while the children’s fates seem more God’s prerogative than mine, tomorrow I make choices that feel all too reflective of my impotence.

Whom should I pick?

Evgeniy, 12, whose enthusiasm I loved, who says he tries “so hard” in school? His dream is for everyone to be good, and to make the world a better place. Should I rob him of his chance to have his world be a better place?

Maybe Dmitry B., 13, the good boy? When asked how long he’d been in the orphanage, he immediately gave the exact date he’d entered, and added he had no regrets. He said he hoped someone would “take him” and he’ll get to live with a good family, neither too rich nor too poor. Siblings would be a bonus.

Vasily, 10, who won me over in Missouri with his jolly answer and firm handshake in response to my butchered Russian greeting? Vasily had a family, but lost them when another child became available.

Dmitry K., 13, who counts as his goals to do better in school and help the poor? This aspiring Egyptian archeologist likes honest, fair people and dislikes fighting.

Alena, 10, with one of the most charming interviews I’ve ever seen, out of hundreds? Her effervescence, optimism, smile, and giggle oozed charm; if we could adopt now, I would not be writing about her.

Anton, 12, who feels like my nephew, since my sister-in-law hosted him? During a school visit, the gym teacher invited him to play volleyball. She thought he’d be too self-conscious, but he leaped up, took his spot without the gym clothes everyone else wore, and made a real contribution to the game.

Vitaly, 7, and Alexandra, 5, whose ages should have led to a host long ago? I know little about them; how do I advocate without anything to say? I cannot shake the feeling they’re goners.

So tomorrow will dawn, and I’ll answer Hope’s call with less enthusiasm than usual. I’ll do my part, cognizant no sense of accomplishment awaits. I’ll just hang up the phone, feeling guilty for having done my job.

I love the Lighthouse Project.

But not this.