When it comes to the subject of adoption, I struggle for words. It’s one of the most defining parts of my life thus far yet causes more writer’s block than anything other subject. During the paper part of the adoption process it wasn’t hard. We were on the front side of reality. The side where you imagine and wonder, the side where you idealize how you will handle every hard scenario. And it’s not even like you expect it to be easy, you know better. But the way you expect to respond is likely far different from reality. Most parents do this no matter if they’re birthing their own or adopting. This kind of thinking is what pushes us to do something outside of ourselves. And it’s a good thing.

But now that I’m on the other side, two and a half years removed from those early days of dreaming, it’s different. Reality set in a long time ago. Often I don’t trust my feelings or my thoughts- that was one piece of advice I listened to from another adoptive mom, and for the first six months, took it to heart pretty seriously. And it saved me during those early days.

As time goes by I wonder when I can start trusting my feelings and thoughts again. To be honest, I don’t know. I haven’t really figured it out. I still have days when I’m not sure if what I think today will be the same thoughts I have tomorrow. But after all of this time I am paying more attention to some of the more consistent ones- especially the ones that give me a different outlook on the world. If they haven’t faded by now then surely there must be some truth to it. It may not all be clear yet, but many things are coming more into focus. So this series will be dedicated to those things I have more clarity about as it relates to adoption and how it’s helped me see the world differently. I don’t even know how often they will be, this is just a start.

One of hardest realities I’m learning is the consequence of a broken foundation. It’s not difficult to believe. Most of us know if a foundation is cracked or broken than anything on top of it will have difficulty standing.

We would also likely agree that when it comes to people, it’s the same. The first five years of a child’s life are the most important years, the foundational years. But seeing the consequences of a child not having a basic foundation is a whole different thing.

Our two boys came into our home with a very broken foundation. They came to us much older than five and much of their behavior was built on instability and negativity. They didn’t have respect for authority (they did fear police and judges), and certainly didn’t trust authority. The poor self image and the self preservation was startling.

I’ll never forget one of our boys bringing me a drawing and said, “Look Mom, look how bad I did”. Their outlook on life and the world was constantly overshadowed by a negative lens. (Moms and Dads, you don’t realize the power of the phrase, “Good job” until you have a kid who hasn’t heard them. Say it often.)

We spent the first year (and much of the second year) breaking down the negative beliefs and behavior that came out of having a broken foundation. And some days we still are. It’s not all quite in place yet. But I believe once it’s more stable we’ll be able to build some lasting beliefs and attitudes on top of it. That gives me hope.

But this reality of what a broken foundation does to a human heart, mind, and soul has brought awareness to things I never understood before. Now I saw it up close.

My boys are not where they were in Brazil. They still have a long road ahead of them, but we were able to intersect with their lives giving them more hope for a good future. And I’m believing it’s a good one.

But what about all of the other kids? What about the kids who are still there? What about all of the kids this year who will age out of foster care systems all over the world and head out to find some kind of way to live? What about all of the adults who have been wandering around for years having never had a firm foundation to stand on? What about the elderly person who has never had a firm foundation their whole life?

I cannot imagine how they survive.
I cannot imagine it even being possible.

This understanding has awakened me to the reality that there are people who walk among us every day who never had the love and stability a family brings. They never had anyone to help them build a firm foundation at the basic human level. I see them with much more grace and compassion now because I understand how many of the basic parts of life really are taught in a family or with someone intentionally investing in them. It doesn’t happen by accident.

I think about the trajectory of where my boy’s lives were heading, and it’s sobering. My boys couldn’t look anyone in the eye for a long time. (And it’s still a struggle.) One was physically unable to utter the words, “I’m sorry” for months (even in his language) and it took hours for him to get to the point of uttering the phrase. One responded “No” to everything (and that’s no exaggeration) no matter good or bad. They will still punch each other over a small toy or snack. And these are just a few of the things I feel freedom to share. It’s mind boggling the behavior that manifests out of insecurity and self-preservation. And to think of what would have happened to them if they were still living in Brazil as they were. Their negative, hopeless view of the world would have only gotten worse.

Now that I’m aware of this reality, I look at people differently. I especially look at people who do really weird things differently. I’m not so quick to judge. I make eye contact. I smile more to the stranger sitting on the curb as I run by. And that may not be much, but it’s much more than I used to do. Sometimes it’s just our awareness that changes us.

Our outlook on life and people affect us at the core of who we are. Because our outlook affects our beliefs, our beliefs affect our attitude, and our attitude affects our actions. And you never know what small action may change the trajectory of someone’s life.

There are a lot of people without a firm foundation to stand on and it’s heartbreaking. And while I can’t do a whole lot to help every single one I see right now, I can choose at the very least to see them as God sees them. I can choose to see them as souls whom Jesus died for the same as me. Maybe the only difference is I had the privilege of family.

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