Ripe with Possibilities

"A Lost Daughter Speaks Out and All of China Listens!" (March 30, 2016, FP News) is the touching story of recent Yale graduate, Jenna Cook. She is a former abandoned infant, left on the streets of Wuhan, China, who went looking for her birth family. Having long
Adoptive Mom and Her New Baby
been interested in the "One Child Policy" of China, I recall being seated next to an American couple back in 2005 as we made our way to Beijing. They were on their way to adopt their new daughter. The flight was long and they were far too excited to sleep. I provided an eager audience. I learned about the hundreds of abandoned babies, the orphanages, and that some families in China needed a son over a daughter. The couple explained that the baby girl they were getting had been left under a tree in a park. I listened with rapt attention. As an American, it was difficult for me to imagine a socio/economic climate that could force people to abandon their children.
     As our family toured Beijing, we rode on rickshaws through thetiny streets of an ancient hutong, a very old neighborhood of tiny homes and narrow alleys. As we wheeled by we could not help but notice that only boy children were out playing. A few days later, we were visiting the Great Wall and, much to our surprise, we discovered an entire "class" of adoptive couples who happened to be there as well. They were gathered with their new little daughters in bright shiny strollers. I struck up a few casual conversations with the beaming mothers, and was even allowed to hold one of the babies. 
     It made an impression on me. On the trip back home I was again seated with an adoptive family. Their new 11 month-old daughter crawled from one of our laps to another. As the airplane grew quiet
Strollers at the Great Wall
and the baby fell asleep, I thought of the opportunity that lay ahead for her. I knew about the success my friend had some years before with her two adopted Chinese babies. Those girls were thriving. I leaned back in my seat and scanned across my teaching career to the hundreds upon hundreds of students who were given opportunity and achieved remarkable success. My thoughts paused on one young Hispanic man I had in my public speaking class. He had regaled us with stories of his life in one of the more infamous Southland gangs. He confessed that when he had stared down the muzzle of an opposing gang member's gun in a dark Los Angeles alley, he knew he would soon be dead if he did not get out. In order to accomplish that, he had to withstand the ordeal of being "jumped out" which meant he had to endure a horrific beating. I followed his progress through college. He was a magnificent student and when he graduated from UCLA Law School he came back to share his triumph with me. 
     From gang banger to lawyer, from abandoned infant to Yale graduate; it interests me to note that often when people are offered
Boys playing in the  Streets
the opportunity for a different kind of life, they grab hold and soar. I hope as we stare at the nightly news and see the animosity and dirty fighting of the current presidential primary campaign, that we do not become so disgusted and disillusioned by what we are hearing that we lose sight of what it is we have here America. We have freedom and opportunity. My travels from the heights of the Himalayas, to the plains of the Serengeti, to the meager dried mud huts along the Nile, to the volcanic mountains of Ecuador, have taught me that what we could all too easily take for granted in the U.S., is just a pipe dream to most of the people of the world. For all of our public blemishes what we have achieved here in our amazing country ultimately works. I think it takes all of us working together to ensure it.


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