Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A metaphor

I followed a link from Susanna Musser's blog today, and found this metaphor for the predicament of special-needs children trapped in institutions:

Imagine...You are walking along a street and see that a house is on fire. There are flames pouring out every where! Hot flames...smoke pouring out of every crack and window. You get as close as you can to see if there is someone in the house - only to see the house is FULL of children. Children whose cries you cannot hear -but you just see each of their little faces as the flames are creeping closer, burning holes in their clothing and choking their every breath. You are horrified beyond your wildest nightmares. You start shouting for help to all those passing by. "Help me save these children! Help me get this one, and this one, and this one!'

But to your amazement, people glance at you and walk away. Others say, "I am not equipped to fight fires, I am so sorry. Good luck. I support your efforts." Others wring their hands for a few moments, then say, "There are too many of them. What good will saving one do? It is only one of hundreds. Why try?" Even others say, "Why put your life at risk? Why change your day to help them? What of your own family? They are your responsibility, not these ones." One even had the nerve to say, "God wants to give you good gifts, He wants you happy - this will make your day hard. I can't imagine He would expect you to do this."

Finally, you see a few people running into the house. To your relief, these people are grabbing as many children as they can. They run them out to the arms of the rescuer's family and race back into to grab as many as they can carry.
 This blogger goes on to bemoan the lack of community support after she has gone in to save a child:

They say that they could understand you feeling like you needed to save one -as they glance cautiously at the little one that you just risked your life for....that you were willing to GIVE your life for......but they really can't understand why you would go for another. Haven't you sacrificed enough? Some are even saying that you are selfish! They are saying that when you race into that house, it makes them uncomfortable. It distracts them from the things that they have to think about that day. You try to reason with them, but their faces are full of pity for you! Pity that you have obviously lost all common sense.

I am definitely meeting all of these attitudes as I try to make an impact in this area in my community.  I think that those are normal reactions people have.  A fire IS scary.  Most people DON'T want to run into the blaze to rescue the children.  And being concerned for one's pre-existing obligations is valid.

That's where the community project comes in.  This is not about individual heroism by itself -- it is about creating an environment where the individual heroism is scaffolded by structures and supports so that these fears and concerns are abated.  In fact, what do most people do in a real fire?  They call 9-1-1.  They bring in fire trucks to put out the fire and ambulances to provide emergency care to the children as they are brought out.  They may bring jugs of water or other supplies as needed to set up emergency triage points.  Somebody still needs to run in and do the rescuing, but in the context of a shared effort, not an individual act of heroism which, no matter how sincere, can act as a shaming to those who do not undertake it.

Matir Asurim will make the 911 call -- raising awareness, both of the dire conditions the children are in, and of the potential of children with special needs when they are raised in loving families with access to medical care and educational and social opportunities.
Matir Asurim will bring the fire trucks -- participating in in-country efforts to improve conditions in orphanages
Matir Asurim will bring the ambulances -- participating in charities and other organizations which bring life-saving medical care to children both in the orphanages and post-adoption
Matir Asurim will bring jugs of water -- support adopters in caring for children with special needs who are recovering from the effects of years of institutionalization.  This would include both logistical and material help, as well as emotional and spiritual support.

My vision for Matir Asurim is that rather than requiring the heroic few to run in repeatedly until all are saved, whatever the cost, that more and more resources from the community will be brought in, so that saving a child is seen as a normal thing to do.

Now that is a "new normal" to aspire to!

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