I learned so many lessons from the four times that I visited Ghana in the last 16 months, way too many lessons to count. Some of them were cultural, some of them were just life experience, but all were just totally humbling. Most of these lessons brought me to my knees. They made me realize that I’m not the person I thought I was. I learned that the place where my children came from can be beautiful, but also desperate. I learned that the place they lived was filled with some joy, but also a lot of abuse. If I had to boil it down to the most important thing I learned, the thing that summarizes it all, it would be that the world isn’t black and white. Shades of grey surround us. There is no good or evil, people are both. I am both.
I was given one sad little piece of a giant puzzle before I went to Ghana in March of 2009. I wasn’t given the box to the puzzle though, just one sad little piece. I had no picture of what the finished product would look like. I just assumed I knew. As more pieces came, I started fitting them together. At the time, the pieces were all either black or white. I thought I was going to Ghana to help a boy whose feet had been burned, that was it, nothing more. White, right? Totally noble intentions. I would hand in my dossier along the way. An adoption dossier for a little girl who needed me as much as I need her. White, right? We were doing good for each other. While in Ghana, I met a little girl whose heart was breaking. The piece of the puzzle that were her story were handed to me. Little girl…white, her adoption…well, those pieces seemed all black. To me, I put those pieces together and assumed that I was getting to the whole picture. I seemed to be making progress. Over the next few months, I was given more pieces, the puzzle looked like it was almost finished. I thought I knew what the final picture was going to look like even though I didn’t have the top of the box. I assumed that it was a good versus evil thing. The finished product was almost assuredly black and white.
Then, I arrived in Ghana for the Duo’s adoption. I thought “this is it”. I’m going to put the last piece into the puzzle and be finished with all of this. Good will triumph. Not so much. All of the sudden, it was like a million grey pieces dropped out of the sky. It was if I was drowning in all these pieces, all varying shades of grey, all different shapes and all different sizes. Where did all these pieces come from? Why were some of them SO huge? How had I not seen them? More importantly, where do they all go? How do they fit? I almost went insane trying to fit it all together again. I spent hours on the phone, writing emails, trying to figure out what the end result was supposed to look like.
I got home with the Duo and went to work putting the darker shades of grey into the puzzle. The orphanage, shut down. The children, all that were willing to go have been sent to new schools. My children’s stories, sorted out as much as humanly possible. The embassy, notified. Then came the true shades of grey. The people that I previously tried to fit into the dark side of the puzzle. I had to make some of the toughest phone calls of my life. I had to apologize more times than I care to remember. I say “I’m sorry” every single day. I am so sorry that I tried to fit anyone into the category of either black or white when 99.9% of my puzzle is grey. I had the few pieces of the puzzle that surrounded the edge. I missed almost all the rest of it. This is what I learned. This is where I accept responsibility. This is where I failed everyone. This is where I lost my way. Is this anyone’s fault but mine? No. Yes, I was given the pieces. But, I (and I alone) chose to fit them into the puzzle the way I did. There is no amount of apologizing that will ever make up for that. This is the most important thing I will walk away from all of this with. Well, this and three absolutely amazing children. I am one of the lucky ones. Some will walk away with nothing but hurt. Yes, I hurt, but I have my children. Grey.
Here’s where the rest of the community that surrounds my puzzle can learn. I’m asking everyone involved with Ghanaian adoptions to think about what I just told you. There is NO black and white here. No one is all good or all evil. If you really think that, then you’re missing the big picture. We all thought Kingsley was one thing, he turned out not to be that at all. Maybe you think you hold all of these white pieces in your hands, that you’re doing what is right. Are you? Or, are you hurting people, and the children, along the way? Are your pieces white, or all they all grey? Do the pieces you hold really fit where you think they do, or are they a different part of the puzzle completely? Don’t make assumptions. Because until you’ve talked with, or met, all the pieces of your puzzle, you’ll never get to the finished product.
Before you ask, my puzzle isn’t nearly complete. Far from it. I don’t have any of the answers for you. Maybe your puzzle looks different. I also don’t consider myself “wise” enough to preach to anyone. I just don’t want anyone to ever go through what I have (and still am). I falsely accused and, on a daily basis, I am now falsely accused. For the people whose hell I contributed to, I don’t want anyone else to be given the wrong pieces again. I do know that in this sea of grey pieces are the children that we all left behind. I don’t know where they all fit into my puzzle yet either. But, I’m working on creating something sustainable for them. When that’s finished, I think the picture will be a lot more clear.
For now though, I’m letting go of the idea of seeing my puzzle finished. Maybe it’s not time for it to be revealed to me yet. That doesn’t mean that I’ll stop trying. I owe it to my children’s friends to keep on going. I’m starting to believe that the completely finished product will only be revealed at the very last second, in the one place where it can all come together. I’m sure that at that time, it will all seem perfectly clear.
who isn’t ready to see that quite yet.