I guess it should first be said that adoption has changed my life. I had no idea when we started this process how absolutely shattered my heart would become not just for my own child, but for the 147 million orphans in the world. And I had no idea how much of a spiritual thing adoption is - as in DEEPLY spiritual (at least that's what my experience has been). But more on that later...
You can only imagine our excitement, anxiety, fear and complete elation over the thought of meeting Tariku. Would he be ready for us? Would he be scared to death? Would he want to have anything to do with us? Two years in the process and the moment was finally here. We boarded the bus with the other ten adoptive families to make the 1/2 mile drive to the Care Center. We may look somewhat together in the picture below, but oh my...we were SO nervous!!
The anticipation of meeting Tariku for the first time was killing us by the time the bus pulled up to the care center. As we stepped off the bus at the care center compound we could see a line of toddlers hanging onto the iron fence looking at us. Since Ben and I had thought we'd meet Tariku inside the care center we didn't give much thought to the fact that Tariku might be outside. But we looked down the line of children anyway, and there he was...the one child bouncing up and down while hanging onto the fence. We looked at him and then the air was filled with "Daddy! Mommy!". More bouncing. More shouting. We couldn't believe it was him. Ben ran to the fence and Tariku threw his arms around him and smothered him with kisses.
He KNEW us! I could not believe it. He was so overjoyed to see us. It was precious. I bent down and hugged him through the fence. We covered each other with kisses and then he was whisked away in a matter of seconds. Ben and I stood there in disbelief that we had seen him! We had met our son! The beauty of that moment is something I will never forget. Oh you guys...he was standing there so expectantly! He knew we were coming...he knew who we were...he was READY!! Honestly, I thought my heart would burst at that moment. I was so shocked, so relieved, so awestruck that our little guy knew us. I had been so prepared that he might not want anything to do with us and what we experienced was so far from that.
A while later, we were formally introduced in his classroom where he proceeded to tackle us with huge hugs. He got up from his desk in the front row and ran across the room to us instantly. I was so enjoying those moments with him that it wasn't til later that I looked up and realized that the classroom was full of children just sitting at their desks watching us be united. I had to fight the tears back as I realized each one of those children was an orphan and Tariku was living their dream moment. He was getting his family while they watched it all from their desk. Thank God I knew each one of those children was spoken for by an adoptive family or I think I would have fallen apart even more. I wondered how many reunions they had witnessed from those chairs. I wondered what their thoughts were each time they saw one of their friends meet their family. I wondered how many friends Tariku had said goodbye to before we came. And then I allowed myself to come back to the sweet realization that Tariku would never have to wonder anymore about us. He'd never have to wait again. Because mommy and daddy were there. We came for him.
Tonight, I snuggled Tariku in his bed, covered him up, kissed him 20 times and told him I loved him. We laughed as I tickled him and he threw his arms around my neck and said "I love you, Mama". He feels safe. He feels loved. He can sleep peacefully now. He is home.
And then I think about the 147 million orphans in the world who will go to sleep tonight without anyone to cover them up or tell them they are loved. Many of them will be hungry and sick and alone. Many will not be safe. Some will be sex-trafficked tonight and reminded of the fact they have no one who cares about them - at least no one they are aware of. But I care about them - I don't have any other choice. I've heard some of their cries with my own ears in both Ethiopia and Uganda. Those are not cries that I will ever get out of my head or my heart. I will not ever forget the pulls on my arms to touch them and pick them up. I will not forget the word so many children whispered in my ear - "Mama" they would say....as if they could speak it into existence. I will not forget the arms wrapped around my neck or the hands caressing my hair. I will not forget the sweet little fingers interlocked with mine.
While my son is home, so many are not. It makes hugging and squeezing him tight that much more meaningful. So, tonight, I am thankful for Tariku being in my arms and that 147 million orphans is now 147 million minus one.