Friday, December 15, 2006

An essay on unfortunate differences…

Trip to DC this week prevented posting regularly, so I am posting some ramblings...

We met mid-summer in the wilds of the Rocky Mountains. In a room filled with parents, children, and a map of Russia – our common link. I put a pin into two cities, Krasnoyarsk and Minusinsk. One for my son who at that time didn’t acknowledge his adoption and one for the daughter beside me who did.

This other family had a son and a daughter too. The son, like ours, was from Krasnoyarsk. A quick conversation led us to a surprising discovery. Our sons had both lived in the same orphanage and likely had been there at the same time.

I went home from camp that year and told my son this. For the first time in his life he seemed interested in his adoption. For the first time he had the courage to face it because there was another - a real tangible boy who was like him.

Over this past weekend we confirmed through pictures that the boys had spent at least some time in the same room. Pictures of each child in a room with pink walls, lace curtains, and panel covered radiators – it was the same room an ocean and a continent away from the farm where we stood now.

We were two families, alike in some fantastic ways, different in other ways just as fantastic. Our adopted children are similar in age, the boys were the oldest and both from Krasnoyarsk, the girls younger and both in love with animals. Each family had one child that was fair and the other dark. The boys had similar temperaments, angry, controlling, at times hyper, and with academic struggles. The girls had their similarities as well; both loved animals, were socially needy and at times seemed socially delayed. Both families were Lutheran.

The differences were equally as stunning. One family lived in Nebraska on a farm that was five miles from the nearest small town. The other lived in a house in a downtown neighborhood of Denver. The children were home-schooled in one instance and were in public school in the other. One family had no biological children and the other family had one younger sibling who was biological. One family was ELCA synod and the other Missouri synod.

In all cases, they respected their differences and in fact celebrated them. The home schooling mother helped the other mother find workbooks for additional summer work for the public schooled kids. The family with the biological child confirmed suspicions about developmental milestones for the family with none. Then came the day when the families attended church together. Unwittingly they would come upon one of the more difficult differences they would face – communion.

Sitting in the first row of the Missouri Synod church it became apparent that for many reasons it would be best if the ELCA family didn’t take communion that day. There hadn’t been time to discuss it with the pastor first, their oldest had had his first communion when the Missouri Synod didn’t typically allow that until after confirmation. So the ELCA family sat, the Missouri Synod family received, and the children were bewildered.

The elephant in the room was large but in typical Lutheran style we moved around it and pretended that it wasn’t there even though we bumped into it at what felt like every turn. The pastor shook hands and welcomed everyone after the service but the ELCA family didn’t really feel welcome by then. How could they feel welcome in the church if they weren’t welcome at the table? It just didn’t match what they believed. In the end everyone left the church and change the subject through the awkward silences later but suddenly they couldn’t seem to find anything to talk about..

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