Family photo 2013

Family photo 2013

Monday, June 16, 2014

Winning You Over

Imagine yourself a very young child, living in rural southern Ethiopia, roughly age 3. You are strongly attached to the mother who has carried you on her back and nursed you since the day you were born, her only method of being able to reliably provide nourishment for you.

You have a father who loves his family dearly, and four older siblings. Then one day, in a tragic accident, your mother dies. You are left with a grief stricken father who is now unable to work because he can not leave his children behind at home with no one to care for them.

He struggles to feed you.

You don't eat every day.

Things remain this way about a year until finally, your father decides you would be better cared for elsewhere, placed with parents and a family who have the means to support you.

At the age of 4, you don't really understand what that means.

All you know is he has taken you away from the family you loved and you are now in an orphanage in the capital city of Ethiopia.

The nannies don't speak your native language. They can't understand you, you can't understand them.

You watch your dad leave and you are left in this unfamiliar place, entirely foreign to you, where you must learn to make a new home for yourself.

From time to time, your father visits you to see how you are doing. You beg him to take you home. He insists, this is what's best for you.

Slowly, you begin to warm up to the nannies. You learn their language, bit by bit. You make friends with other children in your same position.

You live here 3 years.

It begins to feel like home.

Until once again, you will start again, anew.

This time you are going to a place even more foreign with people even more unfamiliar.

Your visits from your father will stop. You wonder if you'll ever see him again.

These people look nothing like you.

You can't understand them and they can't understand you.

You must learn another new language.

They've taken you to America.

You have a host of new siblings.

There is a lot to eat, but the food isn't good to you.

You miss daily meals of injera.

You miss your nannies and your friends.

You miss the orphanage you called home.

You miss the father you've missed for so long.

Again, you are forced to adapt.

Everything is different here.

The sounds, smells, tastes, nothing is the same.

You long for the comfort of home. Either home.

You crave your mommy.

Why did she have to die?

But you must move on, so you will.

Only this time, you aren't so trusting.

The rug has been pulled out from under you too many times.

You will push down your emotions and not get too close.

Distance is your refuge.

The adults in your life, they are always letting you down, leaving you.

These white grown ups mean nothing to you.

You don't know how long this will last until you are forced to move on again.

You've learned your lesson now.

You won't let these people in.

You will keep them at arm's length.

You won't need them.

You won't love them.

They have permanently taken you away from everything you once knew.

You will coexist only. Learn to cope. Play the game. Say what they want to hear.

You will produce exceptional compliance, scared of not being good enough for adults to keep you around.

But no matter what, you won't give them your heart.

It's been broken too many times.

And that's why 4 years later, your white mother struggles to connect with you.

She strains for it, works for it, yearns for it.

She tries again and again to talk to you, to move close, to reach you.

She wants you to be her daughter, not just in name, but in heart.

As much as you'd like to let your guard down, you just can't.

You avoid her at all costs.

You avoid all adults as much as humanly possible.

No one, not a single one of them will gain your trust, your affection.

Not again.

Though you see how much she wants it, how hard she tries.

And you do get tired of being on the outside looking in.

It's lonely here.

So when you come and talk to her in the kitchen while she's washing dishes, and you've got nothing in particular to say and you are just making the smallest bit of conversation and you are not nervous or scared or resisting or pushing back, you show you are learning, ever so little, to rest in relationship.

Even for just a moment, you sought her out.

Your white mother rejoices.

You have warmed her heart.

But you are scared. Still. So scared.

If you are not good enough, will she leave you too?

So you pull back again.

And the dance continues.

What you don't yet understand, is she will not leave you.

She has committed to you.

She gives her all for your care.

She thinks of you, night and day and day and night.

She will serve your best interest to her full capacity.

She will offer herself to you.

She will love you.


There is great hope.

For both of you.

Because you are brave.

And she will never stop.

Attempting to win you over.

You are worth it.

1 comment:

Anastasia said...

And right in the midst of that new "white" house with all those new siblings and that kitchen with all that food, that "white Mommy," she is the living Christ, loving and seeking and reaching out for the heart of a beautiful little brown daughter. And one day, those dark eyes will look and see the One Who never left her or abandoned her. It. Will. Happen!

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