November 19, 2014

Should We WAIT To Tell People We're Adopted?
(The Case for Starting at the Beginning)

Before you think I’ve lost my ever livin’ mind, let me explain.

I’ve spent the last fifteen days in Africa, sharing my story, everywhere.  Thousands of people – women, men and children – have sat with rapt attention and heard where I’ve come from, where I’m going, and what God has done in my life.

When I begin sharing my story I usually say that my mother was pregnant with me in the 1960’s. As  a result of the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy and my birth, my mother became homeless and jobless.  She had to go far away to have me in secret. Then I was separated from her, my sister and brother… for the next 27 years.

As I share this, it never fails…

People start crying.

Some bury their faces in their hands or Kleenex and weep.

They shake their heads in disbelief.

From major cities in  the USA to remote African villages, they sit in shock, and they cry.

Eventually I get to the part in the story where I am adopted. 
I also share about the breakdown of my adoptive family.
There is more weeping. 

The audience is typically spellbound as I share my story, and not a pin drop can be heard except some people sniffling or blowing their nose. 

Do I want them to feel the loss just to feel it, or weep for weeping’s sake? No, there’s a reason I share, and it’s not just to affect people whereby they weep. People immediately identify with loss, pain and grief. After I share my story and how God has helped me to not only survive but thrive, many people respond. They want to survive and thrive too, despite all the obstacles in their lives.

They come forward for prayer for the dysfunction in their family, serious illnesses, death of someone close to them, among many other things. God never fails to meet us at the altars.

But…there’s a very different reaction if I simply begin my talk or my sermon by saying, “Good evening everyone. I’m Deanna, and I’m adopted.”

When I do that, the entire place typically erupts with thunderous applause.

“Adoption” is a trigger word to most of the world, and not in the way that it is to millions of us adoptees.

Adoption is a code to 99% of the world. 
To them it means: panacea.

And if you START with the word adoption, you will never get most people to understand the loss that is behind your adoption.

They are too busy celebrating to realize the loss you had to incur in order to be adopted. 

So I’ve stopped introducing myself whether one-on-one or before an audience by starting with the adoption. I start with loss, separation, pain, grief…and then they begin to understand.

Some of them still clap when I get to the point in my story where I say, "And then...I was adopted." But it's a much smaller amount of the crowd, and sometimes it's a slow, tentative clap. Most of the time, they are still sitting there in shock over the loss that I just shared with them, prior. 

So the thought I had this week after sharing my story again and again the past fifteen days and seeing this reaction is this...

Let's not start our stories with adoption.
Because our lives didn't start with adoption.
We are adopted.
But all of us who are adopted have a story way before that.

Even those who were relinquished at birth spent nine whole months with their mother.  

One day we might be able to start with the word “adoption” and have the world understand what adoption cost us personally, before they start clapping. But for now, we might want to change our strategy from beginning the conversation with our adoption and start with our relinquishment. Because that’s exactly how it happened.