Complicated stories are tricky to tell. People prefer simple stories best. Complicated stories require patience on the part of the storyteller and the audience.
This complicated story has twists and turns that have landed a second young Chinese lady sitting at my family’s dinner table. She’s not here to stay, but the fact that she’s here at all is something I never believed would happen.
In some ways, hers is a story as old as China. In other ways, it is a story as new as the morning.
Jade may or may not be 29 years old. She’s spent her life in a Chinese orphanage or Social Welfare Institute, as they’re called in China. We suspect she’s about four years younger than the age she was assigned. The international adoption craze came along too late for Jade. Girls older than 14 can’t be adopted. By the time international adoption was growing like wildfire, Jade was “too old.”
Familial connections open doors in China. There is more than one great wall in China. Children who grow up inside the walls of an SWI have no influential friends or relatives. There aren’t many paths for children like Jade.
Jade’s SWI is a little community, filled with young and old, all wards of the state. Until about six years ago, it is the place Jade expected to spend her life.
When my husband and I went to China to adopt our daughter nearly seven years ago, we were blessed to have friends accompany us. With their depth of understanding of Chinese culture and language, Michelle and John made our adoption journey much richer.
We were lucky enough to have the chance to visit our daughter’s orphanage – also Jade’s SWI and home. As we visited the well-manicured grounds, Michelle was speaking Chinese with older girls who lived there. They quickly let her know that they did not want to speak Chinese.
“We want learn English,” each of them chimed.
That simple sentence changed the course of Michelle’s life.
A year later she talked me into joining her on another trip to China, a trip designed to help the older girls with their English. During that trip, Jade and I became friends.
Both Michelle and I realized that for Jade, learning English was not just about improving her mind. We knew she saw it as her big chance for a better life.
Since our second trip to China, Michelle has helped Jade and the other girls in many ways. She organized scholarships for them to go to schools and universities. She orchestrated new and improved living arrangements for many. From across the world, she arranged higher quality medical care for one and then returned to China to check on her recovery. She has been a woman on a mission.
While I was busy being the mother of my own children, Michelle became the guardian angel of a group of disparate girls in China.
Then another American family stepped into Jade’s life…
(Stay tuned next week for part two of Jade’s story.)