Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Belonging Is About More Than Biology

As an adoptee and adoptive mom, God is teaching me about his welcoming love.

Adoption stands incomplete until that moment when your child adopts you back. He calls you Mom not because it’s your name, but because he’s naming who you’ve become to him. When she’s with you, whether you’re crossing a street hand in hand or she’s jumping into your arms in the pool, her trust is evident.

Relational reciprocity is more than a mere exchange or the returning of a favor. Philosophers talk about reciprocal altruism, where you give what you expect another to give you and cultivate a pragmatic goodwill that allows for group formation and cohesion. While the dynamic is similar, adoptive reciprocity burrows deeper, pushing toward family formation. This kind of reciprocity has a force all its own—a centrifugal force that pushes outward toward others, including them in our embrace.

The soil of gratitude

When Emma was 18 months old, Claude and I brought her home. Her birth mother had died of AIDS. It felt like we had snatched her from death and disease, from a life defined by a hospice order and lived out in a small orphanage. Her homecoming was a healing.

Months later we sat in her room. After a cavalcade of kisses and giggles, she stilled, then looked at me with a hint of a smile. Her eyes reflected an awareness she didn’t have words for yet. Gratitude. That’s the only way to describe what I witnessed deep in her eyes. My husband thinks my imagination got the best of me that night. But my observation stands. She’s grateful for her life; she knows she almost lost it.

Gratitude isn’t unique to those in the company of the adopted. But adopted living can shape something deep in us. We know our life could have turned out otherwise. We could have been left to ...

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