by Sharyn Dowd
You know you are old when someone else feels compelled to do something “risky” just because you are going to do it. There we all were—four families from the U.S. who had adopted Guatemalan children—and me. The challenge involved zip-lining over and through Guatemalan rainforests on what appeared to be a pretty thin cable stretched between two mountains. When asked, “Sharyn, are you going to do it?” I said, “Yes,” mostly because I had already paid for it and because I figured it couldn’t be as dangerous as it looked. As a result, a couple of younger women felt compelled to be strapped into harnesses and flung out over the abyss after me. No problem.
It occurred to me that these adoptive parents had taken a real risk already—and one that was life-long. The zip-line rides were about 10–18 seconds apiece with time in between to catch your breath. Then the whole experience was over. But these parents had risked adopting children from a very different culture whose appearance was very different from their peers back in Boise, Idaho and Lebanon, Ohio. The Mayans are beautiful people with dark brown skin, straight black hair, and almond eyes—a look that is not that common in the U.S. I didn’t have long conversations with those parents, so I don’t know what their families and friends thought about their decisions to adopt Guatemalan children.
I did know one woman and her daughter very well. Audrey is a member of the church I served in Waco, Texas. She is a nurse and has never married but God woke her up one night and told her she would adopt a child. Audrey and I were in the same small group at church. A group of women from 18 to 80 had prayed over all the complex steps involved in international adoption, and I had gone down to Guatemala City with Audrey to bring Jamie Marie home. We had agreed that when Jamie was old enough, we would take her back to see the beautiful landscapes and beautiful people of her original country.
So I knew a little bit more about the risks Audrey had taken and about some of the hard questions: “Mom, why can’t I be pink like you? We should be the same color.” I knew about the harder risks Audrey had taken by opening her introverted self up to a group of women, allowing them to know her, allowing them to help with the baby when she was sick and to come into her home when she had not had a chance to put away the chaos of an active toddler.
Those were the bigger risks for all of these families and the rewards are more valuable and longer-lasting than bragging rights for having “survived” zip-lining through the rainforest.