Dear Disappointed, I received your email yesterday. First, I thank you for reading my work and then taking the time to search me out on the internet, find my contact button, and grace me with your words of chastisement. While at first I was so upset that I had to pull off the road and convince myself I would not be sick, your message gave me something to think about for the rest of the day and into a sleepless night. I felt it would be appropriate to answer you here. First, your words after reading my novella, The Bridge:
I loved the story. Simple and sweet. Reading afterward, it was disappointing to see about your work in a Chinese orphanage. How many children have you helped in the country in which you were born, raised, educated and benefited from taxpayer support?
Now, please forgive me if I can’t remember all that I have done, but before I answer your demand for a list of ways I’ve helped fellow Americans, can I just ask what is it that you expected me to do during my time in China? Did you expect me to simply enjoy the people’s land, rake in their money, eat their foods, and party myself to death? I apologize that when a situation of orphaned children presented itself, that I went out of my way to use my time, talents and compassion to make their lives just a tiny bit better. I guess that taking on the advocacy and supporting the surgery of little Le Men and Li Li should never have happened? Where would they be now? Most likely gone from this earth instead of adding unmeasurable joy to the forever families they finally joined. And the girl we called Princess….her body deformed by the ravages of her disease but her eyes always pleading for someone to touch her, someone to love her. Where would she be? I know where she wouldn’t be—and that is in the arms of another volunteer who she now calls Mom. And if you really want to see me fired up, what about the little girl named who was in an accident that resulted in her losing her leg, then her family. She was left to languish in an orphanage in China, forever branded to be discriminated against for the fate thrown her way. Without me and my team, and all the miraculous things that happened between, she wouldn’t be a part of an amazing family right now who love her for who she is–and who don’t look at her as a disabled child, but simply look at her as their amazingly resilient daughter.
Truly, if you read my memoir, Silent Tears, you’d see that my work in China resulted in children living a better quality of life because of the ways in which we helped the nannies, the facility, and therefore those who were in their care. Diapers, bedding, toys, even better milk for the babies! You’d also see that when we arrived, two to three children shared one bowl of congee (rice as you most assuredly call it) for every meal. The bowls were emptied and the children still cried in hunger. With our resources, we were able to make sure every child had a bowl of their own and went to bed with a full stomach. But then, I suppose since you weren’t there to see their streaked faces crying silent tears of abandonment or hunger, that it doesn’t touch you in the way that it did me. But I’m grateful others were able to ‘see’ it through my words and step up to do what they can from afar, even though the children aren’t in their country. For does it really matter where a child is if they need our help?
As you can see, I feel very passionate about the children I left behind in China. Just as I do any child that God puts in my path. I suppose it wouldn’t kill me to admit that upon my return to the states, in addition to online volunteering for numerous organizations that support children in China, I physically worked full time (two years) for a non-profit organization that focuses on helping children build strong character, confidence and spirit. Also during that time I spear-headed several outreach programs including one I called Zip Up A Smile in which we collected enough welcome bags of items to be used for an entire year at a (American) children’s shelter, sometimes the only thing a child has of their own after being jerked out of their homes. I also headed another called Zip Up the Warmth in which we collected and handed out over 100 warm coats and backpacks to (American) children living in an low income neighborhood. Or maybe I should mention the two years I spent as a CASA Volunteer in which I acted as the voice of the child, even venturing into meth-infected neighborhoods and taking unpaid time from work to attend court hearings and events for my children (cases). I gladly used my own funds for gasoline, clothing, hygiene items and gifts for (American) children assigned to me. But most valuable was the time that I gave them—children who felt neglected and abandoned to sink or swim in the broken (American) foster system.
I could tell you more that I’ve done to help in my “own” country—but really, what would be enough to balance out your disappointment in me? What most don’t know is that I suffer daily from a debilitating chronic condition that causes me great pain. I have for decades, yet I’ve refused to let it overcome my goal of making a difference in any small way I can. I encourage you to read my memoir, Silent Tears, to see if maybe a glimpse behind those walls makes you change your mind about being disappointed in someone who dares to try to help. Yet, really, if you don’t read my work and get it that I am passionate about advocating for children, whether they are Chinese or American, red, white, brown or black, then really I have nothing left to say, except just maybe one little question for you.
What have YOU done to make this world a better place?