Of all the metaphors used to describe adoption, journey is by far the most common. It’s a word that invokes an idea of vastness and exploration. People who adopt speak of their lives getting bigger, their hearts—like the Grinch’s—expanding threefold to make room for all the love that comes with children. However, an adoptive parent’s life actually gets smaller and far more insular when “the littles” move in.
When my husband and I welcomed two brothers—then ages eight and five—into our home, our world collapsed like an ornate piece of origami. They needed time to get used to living with one another again (as they’d been separated for much of their time in foster care) and to learn how to be members of an honest-to-goodness family. Neither of these things could be accomplished with a busy social schedule, so we made the choice to limit who we saw and how much time we spent outside the home. Saying yes to them meant saying no to so many things.
We fully expected to feel isolated when cut off from the free-range adult lifestyle to which we’d long been accustomed, and that was true at first. However, within a year, it became clear we were not experiencing what John Donne called “a breach.” Rather, we were undergoing “an expansion, / Like gold to airy thinness beat.” Having school-aged children has thrown us into social circles our “DINKhood” (Double Income No Kids) would never allowed us to access—at school, church, and in the community at large. Most importantly, we have spent time working with other adoptive families—helping them navigate the process, comforting them when it feels altogether too difficult, and both giving and receiving support.
There is nothing common about this community we’re building. The people “at our table” aren’t always around in the physical sense. We see a few people on a weekly basis, but there are far more with whom we rarely meet face-to-face. Several live in neighboring states or in countries around the globe. This circle of friends and co-laborers has been built organically through a system of phone calls, video chats, email exchanges, and social media interactions. It isn’t something we use merely to get by; it is a sustaining force in our lives.
Because of our children, we’re beginning to comprehend a broader definition of community and the many forms it can take—ranging from a congregation to the “little church” that is our home. The truth is that our story is small, yet we’re striving to be faithful over the little we’ve been given. One day, we will be set over much and enter into the joy of our master. Slowly but surely, God is pulling people into our narrative, allowing us both to move closer together and into the very center of his heart. Yes, we may see fewer people these days, but we have never felt less lonely.
Read more stories of hope and heartbreak in the Summer 2018 symposium on social isolation here.