Thursday, May 31, 2007

Feeling Like Atlas

I'm currently reading both Another Mother: Co-Parenting with the Foster Care System, and We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families: Stories from Rwanda. Needless to say, I'm in a very strange mental place.

The first book, by a social worker (Sarah Gerstenzang) who chose to foster a child (infant to 2 years old, willing to consider any race, and any disability) has me reevaluating my commitment to adoption and fostering children. I decided long ago that I want to have four children. Realistically I'll have as many children as Hashem wills, and as I can afford, but in my ideal world I want four. Two biological, and two adopted. You see, I am worried about world overpopulation, so I do not wish to create more lives than my husband and I will require to replace, but I am also concerned about the survival of the Jewish people, and so I'd like to contribute to that growth too, so I need to have three or more children, net. However, after reading this book it seems unlikely that I will have the time/funds to adopt two children, even non-internationally. Looks like I need a new life plan. Also, the book has a fascinating look into how our social policy is formed by beliefs about who needs help and why.

As for the second, well, let's just say that it isn't a light read. Philip Gourevitch (who, from an offhand comment seems to be the child of Holocaust survivors) describes not just the process of the genocide (with which I was unfamiliar) but also the historical context. He explains who the Hutus and Tutsis are, and from where the ethnic differentiation comes. Surprise, surprise, colonialism had something to do with it... The amazing writing, clarity of narrative, and personal style all contribute to a fabulous, if difficult book. Whose thesis, for the record, only strengthens my belief that one cannot ignore the role of history in creating current conflicts, and that many modern conflicts are like a basket of knitting that has become tangled. You can either spend a great deal of time seperating out the threads to maintain the yarn's integrity, or you can just cut them, leaving yourself with another type of mess, and a less structurally sound final garment (after you use the cut yarn for knitting).

The Annie "basket theory" of modern political conflict

For the record, my analogy is not entirely my own, it has its base in an Eastern European Jewish folk story. The story goes as follows: a young man has brought home his fiancee to meet his mother, and his mother is less than impressed. The man and his mother argue for several hours while the young woman is sitting in the corner, patiently untangling the man's mother's knitting basket. By the time the man and his mother have reached a standoff, the entire basket is set to order. When his mother sees this she relents, and accepts the woman as an acceptable wife for his son, because she sees the woman's patience and industry as important values. She also says something like "may she untangle all disputes like she has with this knitting basket."

In conclusion, I'm feeling responsible for the world, and not entirely sure how to fix it. Suggestions welcome.


Lisa said...

I'm a former foster child and current child advocate.

First of all, you need to read something that is more encouraging!

Here are some suggestions:

1.) I Speak for This Child: True Stories of a Child Advocate by Gay Courter

2.) True Notebooks by Mark Salzman

3.) Twilight Children: Three Voices No One Heard Until a Therapist Listened by Torey Hayden

4.) Breakfast with Tiffany: An Uncle's Memoir by Edwin John Wintle

5.) One Small Boat: The Story of a Little Girl, Lost Then Found by Kathy Harrison

More to come...


Lisa said...

Secondly, my advice to to pick an area of the world that you want to change, and stick to it.

One of the best pieces of advice that anyone ever gave me was from a man who commented that my circle of influence was much smaller than my circle of concern.

He drew two circles, one inside the other. The little one was my circle of influence. The larger, my circle of concern.

He said that if I were faithful within my circle of influence, it could create a "ripple effect" that would expand and touch on my circle of concern.

And he also advised me to pick my area.

My area is foster care. Other problems exist in this world, but I am focused on that one area, and I will make a difference in that one area before I die.

These two revelations have brought a lot of peace to me, and I hope that they are helpful to you.

Best wishes,

harley said...

Another book suggestion: Samantha Powers's A Problem from Hell. A good beach book.

And I'd like to add that using the phrase "the role of history" takes the onus off the role of people in history. I know that you meant that the extensive history of a conflict contributes to the complexity of its make up today, but I think it's important to explicitly state that human beings created the conditions for those conflicts.

orieyenta said...

How about another uplifting adoption book - "The Waiting Child". I know the woman who wrote the book and her daughter Jaclyn (who is the main subject of the book) was my hope throughout the time I waited to adopt my Little Orieyenta. It is an amazing story of hope, love, and adoption.

I don't think you should feel as though it is unlikely that you will have the time/funds to adopt a child or two (or ten even). There are all kinds of adoption assistance available and I think a lot depends on the family. For example...some people who adopt from China spend upwards of $25,000 - but they fly business class and spend a few days sightseeing and then stay in the most expensive 5 star hotels in China. But I personally know people who have done the whole shebang for around $8,000. So, never say never. When I first started my research to adopt Little Orieyenta, the costs seemed prohibitive but somehow, Hashem found a way to bring her to me.

Chris said...
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