Five little words have haunted me the last several days and kept me up at night ... "she did not know how". Five words that describe a woman I love a world away from me. This woman shares a lot in common with me yet could not be more different than me at the same time. She shares a love for two precious boys in my life (Jimso and Jedone)yet life has not been as kind to her as it has to me. We have different colors of skin, different cultures, different life experiences and live in two very different worlds. Yet today on international woman's day, she is all I can think about.
On Saturday night I couldn't sleep. I started thumbing through some of our tax documents. We had to get all of our adoption paperwork translated in order to submit it to the IRS. I was sorting through a sack of documents that I have held 100 times before but those 5 little words stood out BOLD in the midst of a bunch of legal jargon. On several official court documents it read "SHE DID NOT KNOW HOW to sign her name so her thumb print was submitted in lieu of her signature."
I've filed in the blanks in my mind on many occasions trying to wrap my mind around what led to Jimso and Jedone's abandonment and their mother's choice to terminate her rights and sign over custody to the orphanage and ultimately to us when we began pursuing the adoptions. I know that no mother could have came to this decision lightly and it must have been heart wrenching to admit that she couldn't provide what they needed. I have came to terms with the fact that SHE COULD NOT be the mother they needed but until now had never considered the possibility that "SHE DID NOT KNOW HOW."
And it is just not something that happens "over there", it happens right here too. When we did foster care, I saw first hand this vicious cycle of foster kids who grew up in the system repeating the mistakes their parents had which in turn led to their children and their grandchildren growing up in the system. Unless someone was successful at intervening, they did not know how to be a healthy mother.
I have previously blogged about my experience at my first Haitian wedding and the way my stomach turned upside down when I realized that the bride could not sign the marriage certificate. The picture of illiteracy in Haiti was burned on my heart as I watched the Pastor sign the bride's name for her because she could not. My heart physically ached for the bride because of what may have been the best day of her life, she was reminded of the reality that she could not read or write. I then watched the mother of bride require assistance signing her name as well and the portrait of cultural and generational illiteracy was etched onto my heart.
As an avid reader and writer, if I woke up tomorrow morning and somehow lost my ability my read and write, that would be near torture for me. Yet 55% of Haitian (more than half) can not read or write. According to UNICEF, more than half of the nation's children fail to reach the fifth grade, and only one in five young people reach secondary school. As a bachelors degree prepared nurse (who is currently enrolled in a masters program), I am humbled when I think about how easy my education was to access (THANKS DAD!). And as I try to wrap my mind around how different my life and the boy's biological mom's life must be, I can't help but to wonder why I have been so blessed? She will never know the joy of reading God's precious words to her. She will never experience how awesome it feels to curl up with a good book on a rainy day nor the excitement of passing a difficult exam or acing a college thesis. Yet because I was born where I was born, I have somehow been given the privileged of knowing how to do so many things we take for granted. As I have served women in poverty, I have thought to myself a million times " there but for the grace of God go I"
(meaning I might have suffered a similar fate, but for God's mercy.)
Most of you know that I can get pretty fired up when it comes to certain social justice issues. To say that I am passionate would be an understatement and I have stuck my foot in my mouth more times than I can count but I'm gonna go out on a limb and make an assumption.... I think that many of the social issues we face (the orphan crisis, the AIDS epidemic, extreme poverty,human sex trafficking etc...) could be greatly reduced, remedied, or completely eliminated if we make education more readily available to girls growing up in developing nations.
"How many Rosa Parks or Marie Curies have we lost to poverty? How many Maya Angelous or Sandra Day O'Connors never had a chance to learn? How many Mother Teresas have lost hope due to neglect and abuse?"
Please spend a few moments of your time watching this powerful video....