Don’t call him lucky.
Yes, out of more than 4 million orphans in Ethiopia, my son Dawit was one of the few who was placed in a loving home. That’s pretty lucky. The home he was placed in is in the greatest country in the world. That’s lucky. He has opportunities now that he would never have had before.
But that doesn’t make him lucky.
The same people who would see him as lucky would also call a cancer survivor lucky. Compared to people whose lives are taken by the awful disease, survivors seem lucky. But few would seem themselves as lucky when they have to face multiple surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
If you live through that, people think you’re lucky. I hope I’m never that lucky.
Dawit isn’t lucky to be in our family.
He never knew his father and he lived through the pain of being so sick and malnourished that his mother was forced to give him up to an orphanage to save his life.
He didn’t feel lucky when they took him across Ethiopia to Addis Ababa to a guest home where he was fed and cared for even though he couldn’t communicate with other children or caretakers. He didn’t feel lucky when he saw his birth mother again and the pain of the previous year since he was relinquished came rushing back in fits of rage.
He wouldn’t touch her. He wouldn’t talk to her. He didn’t understand that she had saved his life. He just knew she let him go.
Looking back — like a cancer patient whose surgery is over — I think Dawit understands that he is in a better situation now and sees his bright future. But none of us who haven’t received the horrible diagnosis would ever walk that path, given a choice.
Dawit isn’t lucky, but he is resilient. He can bounce back from anything. I think that was partially learned from his life experience. I also think he was equipped with it for a reason. That quality will be a big part of what makes him great one day.
This weekend is Orphan Sunday when people take a moment to consider the plight of more than 150 million orphans worldwide.
I don’t think international adoption is the best way to try to help all of them, but it is a great thing for the families that answer that call. My family supports some charities that help orphans and others that try to help stem the growing tide of orphans.
The number of 150 million orphans can be a little misleading. Only about 15 million of the orphans in the world are “double orphans” who have lost both parents to accident, war, disease or other causes.
Like about 90 percent of the 150 million orphans in the world, Dawit didn’t lose both parents. He was a “single orphan.” His birth mother was still alive, but her circumstances as an orphaned adult didn’t allow her to care for him in an impoverished area in an impoverished country.
That led to him becoming one of the many single orphans who end up having to be abandoned by the surviving parent. Those abandoned children end up in institutional care unless they find a way out through a family member or adoption.
The choice to adopt internationally for us was pretty simple. My parents weren’t millionaires who could write checks to solve the problems of the world. Both of my parents gave what money they could and a huge amount of time to help people in need. Whether it was a soup kitchen, coat ministry, or something as simple as a ride home from practice for a kid who needed one, they did what they could.
It was a simple lesson that became a mindset. If you can do something, you should.
Not everyone is in a place in life to add a four-year-old orphan from Ethiopia to your family. We were in that place and our lives have been blessed for the seven years we have enjoyed our little cure for boredom.
Most people are in a place where they could spend $20 a month — for some much more — to help those in need in your hometown or across the world. Need knows no boundaries and the world needs people to help in your own zip code and countries you’ve never visited.
I don’t know where you are in life but I do know that if you can do something to help, you should.
Dawit isn’t lucky. He has been through so much to get where he is now. But we are lucky that his misfortune gave us a chance to be in his life.
On Orphan Sunday 2018, think about what you can do to help. You will be glad you did.
— Kent Bush is publisher of Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.