QUESTION: My husband and I travel regularly with our church’s missions to other countries, but mostly to the Caribbean. While in Haiti, we became attached to a couple of little sisters who we would like to adopt. We’ve researched the possibilities and found we can adopt these little girls who are now 3 and 4 years old. Our families support us, but we have several friends who are dead-set against it claiming that integrating children from another culture is difficult plus the difference in ethnicity.
Is there anything we can say or do so we don’t have to choose between our friends and the children?
~ Hopefully Future Parents
Dear Hopefully Future Parents,
First, I commend you for your commitment to go and help people in other countries. This tells me you have allowed God to put His heart of love and compassion inside of you. Reaching out to people in need with His heart ultimately changes your heart.
Obviously this is more than just an emotional or whimsical idea. You’ve given it serious consideration, done the research and know the adoption is possible. I am also assuming you have given this matter much prayer. I believe the real key is, “What is God saying about you adopting these little girls?” Is the love you feel and desire to adopt them something God has birthed in your hearts? If you genuinely believe that, then God can help you express it to both family and friends.
You say your families are supportive of your desire to adopt. That’s important; after all, they know you and your hearts better than anyone. If the adoption does occur, their ongoing support will be vital.
What your friends have expressed is, undoubtedly, out of their love and concern for you. They don’t want to see you become involved in a situation they believe could potentially bring stress into your lives. Have there been challenges integrating children of another culture or ethnicity? No doubt, but not always. Many couples have successfully assimilated children from other countries and ethnicities into their families. You have several factors in your favor: God’s heart will be guiding you all the way, the girls are very young, and growing up here they will more easily settle into our multi-cultural Southern California society.
Your response to your friends might be the following: First, let them know how much you value them and their friendship. Sincerely thank them for their concern for your wellbeing. Assure them that you have given extensive thought and prayer to the possible adoption, and that you really believe it is God’s plan and purpose for you and the girls. Then, soon after the girls arrive, what if you planned a “welcoming celebration” inviting both family and friends? Seeing you and the girls as a family could help dispel their apprehension.
God’s blessings to you,
Tim Beck, volunteer chaplain
YMCA of the Foothills
Dear Hopefully Future Parents,
Let me commend you on your service to your church through your mission work. I know that kind of effort can be a real challenge for many people. But you have evidently found it very fulfilling. And the fact that you now want to adopt these two little Haitian sisters is a true act of compassion. Providing a loving home for them will enrich your lives and theirs.
I am glad that you have the support of your family. That affirmation will go a long way. But I am sorry that some of your friends are so opposed to your plans. Certainly, introducing children from another culture and ethnicity into yours will have a number of difficulties. But you and they will learn a lot and grow in your understanding of a more global consciousness on a very personal level. And your friends may just learn something too about how to relate to people who are different from them.
My hope is that when these friends see how happy you are with your commitment to take these little girls into your family, they will come around. It may take awhile. But if they are dedicated friends, I believe they will ultimately support you and your expanded family.
I wish you great success in your continued work for a more inclusive world where all people are welcomed and cherished. The dream that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King had was for a time when children “will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” I hope for that for you, too.
Rev. Dr. Betty Stapleford, minister
Unitarian Universalist Church of the Verdugo Hills-La Crescenta
QUESTION: Is it my imagination that there seems to be an increase in shootings lately, and especially on college and school campuses? And media attention brings these situations dramatically into our homes via TV and the Internet. I’m concerned about my teenagers and what is happening.
My question is about the obvious disagreement between those who want stricter gun laws and those who do not. Is there a logical spiritual solution to this problem?
~ Protective Parent
Dear Protective Parent,
As I write this response to your question there is a report of yet another campus shooting in Seattle. It is impossible to explain why senseless violence happens in the world because a rational, faith-filled mind will never find an answer that makes us feel anything other than distress. The ageless question arises – are guns the problem or the people who are using them? That is something we must answer in our own hearts. While we may never be able to figure out why people do destructive things, what we can do is to be mindful of how we live our lives. How do we shift the negative patterns in the world? Mind your own mind! When we focus our thoughts on goodness, doing the right thing, creating harmonious relationships with family and friends we are making a difference in the world at large. Our good behavior and our kindness towards one another has a positive impact on those we meet and creates a ripple effect of love in the world at large. Every moment we have an opportunity to respond in love or fear. Choose love! Choose to be in the stream of consciousness that knows that power of Spirit is at the heart of all things. There is a Divine Presence that is guiding us to move beyond the challenges we encounter. Keep your vision to life, love, light, power, peace, beauty and life will respond to you in kind. What we focus on expands in our experience.
Rev. Mary Morgan
Dear Protective Parent,
Sadly, your concern is justified. I don’t want to sound like an alarmist, but the reality is that every parent in America should be very worried about any shootings, let alone those that occur on a school or college campus. And yes, it does seem like mass shootings are rising as time progresses. I’m not a statistician, but it feels like we are witnessing more bloodshed today than in generations past.
There are many factors to blame for this terrible carnage, and only one of them is lax gun laws. Every time the airwaves are filled with news of another tragic mass shooting, I marvel at how fingers start pointing everywhere but at ourselves. Instead of taking the easy route and blaming laws, politicians, organizations, etc., we should stop for a moment and ask ourselves what we can do to affect positive change.
I believe that the first place we should start to make a real change is in our education system. Unfortunately, over the past three decades or so, all spiritual fundamentals have been eliminated from our schools. I understand the need for a separation between church and state, but adhering to that principle does not require eradicating any and all religious teachings from our education system. Teaching children at an early age that every human being is created in God’s image and contains an incredible Divine energy is a basic way of instilling respect for life. Our youth need to be imbued with a visceral understanding of the infinite value of every person on Earth – starting with themselves.
We live in unsettling times, and stemming the tide of gun violence will take a multi-pronged approach. However, the place to begin is by ensuring that our young people possess a sound moral compass. People who are raised without core ethics lack self-esteem and respect for their own lives; often, they place even less value on other’s lives. This volatile combination can easily lead to violence and mass murder.
Rabbi Simcha Backman
Chabad Jewish Center