Thursday, February 18, 2010

"Tell her you want a family, too!"

In the eleven trips I’ve coordinated, I’ve repeatedly observed quiet, compliant children are in grave danger of being overlooked, while obnoxious kids glide into families.   In all my trips, Denis is unique: his shyness landed him his family.  His hosts Aaron and Robyn heard about the Tulsa Russian Orphan Lighthouse Project through another hosting friend, and signed on shortly before the trip. Like 80% of hosts, they expected to serve only as a bridge between an orphan and an adoptive family, until Denis’s painful reserve stabbed Robyn in the heart. One morning, eyes brimming with tears, she confided she had a quiet child already who, dropped into a similar situation, would never shine and find a family on such a trip. That epiphany, time, and prayer proved the prompts her family needed to pursue adoption of Denis.

Joining Denis on that trip was his best friend, Dmitry. During Dmitry’s visit, he craved hugs, loved laughing, amazed his hosts Lee and Stacey with his artistic prowess, and declared his wish for a car and garage some day. Though initially afraid of the family dachshund, her name was the first he learned, and soon cries of “Louuu-see!” were followed with laughter as she sprang into his lap. Lee and Stacey raved about his attitude, organization, kindness, and enthusiasm for their activities. At the community program the Lighthouse kids present on our American trips, Lee hoped to give a testimonial on his behalf, and seemed genuinely disappointed when I declined. Dmitry, in no demand at age thirteen, returned to Russia with the prayers of his hosts, but without an adoptive family.

In December, after Aaron and Robyn appeared in a Russian court to finalize Denis’s adoption, they left him in the region, as required, and returned to Moscow. Denis, briefly back at the orphanage after spending time with his new family, called our Russian coordinator Love while waiting. Too retiring to ever have pled his own case, but acting with the urgency of one fearing to leave his best friend hopeless, Denis offered Dmitry the phone. As Love spoke with Dmitry, she heard Denis imploring in the background, "Go ahead! Tell her! Tell her you want a family, too!"

In our autumn visit, we saw desperation at Denis and Dmitry’s orphanage we witnessed nowhere else. Kids there made efforts, heartbreaking in their failure, to dress up for us; one boy, already too old for international adoption, sported a shiny polyester suit as he pled with his teacher, “Will you show me to them?” Departing without meeting everybody, kids followed us out the door, some even chasing our car as we drove off.

Waiting in this forlorn place his few last days before his family’s second coming, Denis, erstwhile orphan but now a son, disdained to save only himself. Summoning strength he’d not shown in his own search, now he’d do what he could to pass his blessings on.