“Compassion is bad, very bad,” our lawyer said. She continued to explain what she has observed as the mindset of the judges presiding over the adoptions here in Cochabamba.
“If you go to the judge and say to her, ‘We want to adopt an older child because we have seen through our experience in running an orphanage that the older children do not get adopted as much as the babies do,’ they will see that as an act of compassion and not as an act of love. Furthermore, they will not grant you the adoption if those are the motives you express.”
I was shocked. My understanding of what adoption is has been challenged time and again and this is one of the biggest clashes I have had thus far. We told her that we would like to allow Bolivia to assign us a child (instead of us being the ones to choose the child). This was a big enough hurdle to climb over. Glory to God I can say with confidence that I am indeed over it. I am ok with letting God work through the Bolivian system to get our daughter to us. Now I am hearing that we can only be assigned a child younger than our youngest biological child?
The understanding is that the only legitimate motive (according to the perception of our lawyer in her experience with the judges) for wanting to adopt is that you want to become a parent again. And if you want to become a parent again then, logically with the nine months of pregnancy, the new son or daughter will be younger than your youngest child.
Our lawyer is very good. She has much experience and is very interested in making this adoption happen as quickly and efficiently as possible for us. We are very glad she is our lawyer. She made a trip to the capital city this week to do some important paperwork for us. We are thankful that there were no hitches with it. Now she is telling us that by the middle of this week we will be able to present our desire to adopt to the courts. That means they will begin the home studies, amongst other things. Within a month we could have a child assigned to our family. With that assignment we are able to proceed with the three court hearings, the presentation of our legal documents and the final investigations by social services (which takes about two months altogether). Barring any unforeseen difficulties we could have this process finished in three months.
As long as we are willing to relinquish our compassion. As long as we are willing to say to them that we will take a child younger than our two-year-old. As long as we are willing to trust that God is the one who has started this work and he will accomplish it.
Do you know what? We are willing. Do you understand? We are willing. We just want our daughter.
I told the lawyer that we are going to present our request for a girl somewhere between the ages of zero months and four years. Then I said to her that we are going to pray and we will have the child that God wants us to have. She gave me a spirited and hopeful, “Yes, that is what we are going to do.”
Our understanding about the effects of compassion on a society are obviously different. This might explain some of the disgusted looks we receive from nationals when they hear that we are adopting or that we run an orphanage. Clutches of shame grip the people. They are ashamed so they hide, as they are hiding they shun the acts of those that bring the truths to light so that the issues may be addressed. It is difficult for me to put into words the awful and tremendous force of embarrassment so prevalent here. That is the only explanation I have for why it would be assumed that acts of compassion are ignoble.
I can accept their perception, but I do not have to adopt their perception. Cultural identification is a fine line we walk every day. When do I cede? When do I stand rigid? Can I see clearly enough to know that I am making the good choice in this very moment? Are the criss-crosses of my moral strainer too tiny? Do I filter in vain? This is culture shock. It hit me this week.
It used to be that culture shock took place on a very superficial level: food, shopping, language, dress, manners and weather. Now those things don’t even phase me. The adjustments I am having to evaluate touch a very much deeper level. We are contemplate things like: gender roles in society, child rearing, political infrastructure, ingrained concepts of God, and definitions of words like compassion. One little word with implications that shook me to my core. My analytical brain has to force away the elementary question: how many words are there in the Spanish language?
Shall we end on a good note? I think so. Our adoption is closer now then it has ever been. The pace has picked up and will continue to do so in these coming months. I am hopeful. I have made the adjustments in my thinking that allow me to continue loving the Bolivian people without resenting them. In fact, I am glad for this new knowledge so that I may connect with the hearts of the people I have chosen to make my own.