My dear friend Jolene, who is in the process of adopting from Ethiopia, recently recommended an amazing book, There Is No Me Without You: One Woman’s Odyssey to Rescue Her Country’s Children
The author talks about the first time she heard Africa described as “a continent of orphans” in the summer of 2000 in the New York Times. She quotes the staggering numbers in relation to the AIDS crisis:
…21 million dead, including 4 million children…
…13 million orphaned children (12 million of them in sub-Saharan Africa)…
…25% of those children in Nigeria and Ethiopia…
…11% of all children in Ethiopia orphaned by AIDS…
…predictions that by 2010, between 25 and 50 million African children would be orphans…
She writes, “The numbers were completely ridiculous. Twelve million, fourteen million, eighteen million- how could numbers so high be answers to anything other than How many stars are in the universe? or How many light-years from the Milky Way is the Virgo Supercluster?”
Truly, the numbers are ridiculous. But they are REAL. REAL people. REAL children. It is inconceivable.
She goes on, “Human beings are not wired to absorb twelve million or eighteen million or twenty-five million bits of information; our protohuman ancestors never had to contemplate more than about ten or twenty of anything…numbers with so many zeros are hard to fathom…hats off to anyone who can begin to imagine what this really looks like, what this means.
Who was going to raise twelve million children? That’s what I suddenly wanted to know…
Who was teaching twelve million children how to swim?
Who was signing twelve million permission slips for school field trips?
Who packed twelve million school lunches?
Who cheered at twelve million soccer games? (That sounded like our weekends).
Who was going to buy twelve million pairs of sneakers that light up when you jump?
Twelve million pairs of socks?
Who will tell twelve million bedtime stories?
Who will quiz twelve million children on Thursday night for their Friday-morning spelling tests?
Twelve million trips to the dentist?
Twelve million birthday parties?
Who will wake in the night in response to eighteen million nightmares?
Who will offer grief counseling to twelve, fifteen, eighteen, thirty-six million children?
Who will help them avoid lives of servitude or prostitution?
Who will pass on to them the traditions of culture and religion, of history and government, of craft and profession?
Who will help them grow up, choose the right person to marry, find work, and learn to parent their own children?
Well, as it turns out, no one. Or very few.”
(There Is No Me Without You: One Woman’s Odyssey to Rescue Her Country’s Children, pages 20-23)
I cannot read this without weeping. Really weeping. And all I have left to say is that this little passage has changed my life forever.
My life will look different because of this.
Because of those children.
Because of their mothers who will never see them grow up.
Because it is no longer OK to distance myself and say how sad it is that there are orphans in Africa or that the AIDS crisis is really horrible.
It is time, for me, for you, to do something about those numbers. About those people. About those children. To make a difference, even to just one.