Thursday, July 2, 2009

All God's Children

My last post got me to thinking about God's children. I am referring not to mankind as God's children, but to the little ones in our lives and our second generation regardless of age, the ones who call us Mom and Dad (or Ma and Pa, or Omy and Baba, etc.).

In this, I cannot imagine anyone with a greater sense of humor than God. I see that humor unfold in my life time and again. For example, I never particularly wanted children; I had a career lined up for myself (in my mind). Well, had that career happened as planned, it would not have been one iota as interesting as the career that unrolled, in zigs and zags, before me. And had that career not had to zig and zag around child after child, I would have missed the richest moments of my life.

In a display of great irony, the children that came into my life were not your everyday variety. Well, actually, those, too, ended up in my life, but as adults. My birth children, as well as those who came to live with Donnie and me as children and teenagers, were different: highly gifted, mentally and physically challenged, medically needy, discarded, bereft, foreign. First came my own birth children, one after the other, in spite of my best efforts not to get pregnant. (I hated being pregnant -- if I had a half hour of not being sick throughout all four pregnancies, I do not recall it. As best as I can figure, between all the kids, I have spent 26,298 hours vomiting or trying not to vomit.) On the other hand, once the children were born, all those maternal instincts took over and ran way ahead of me.

After my birth children along came Shura (a Siberian teenager with spina bifida),

All of these children I have talked about in various posts and books. The ones I have not mentioned are the ones that came later. They are the ones who need my help (and your prayers) today. Please meet Lana, Ibrahim, and Maha.

Leyla and Shem (not related to each other) are from Iraq. I met them in Jordan, where they worked for me as work-study students at the university where I was the chief academic officer.

Leyla would periodically come into my office and say, "Mum, may I cry in here?" It was usually because she had heard of a new bombing along Airport Road in Baghdad, where her family lived, or an attack on Baghdad University, where her father taught. Her family could not leave Iraq. She could not return, and communications, especially in 2003-2006 were very poor and, at times, totally lacking. Given a tendency to assume the worst, when she did not hear that her family was okay, she assumed that something bad had happened. And so, she started calling me "Mum" and looking to me for advice and moral support. I took to keeping an Islamic prayer rug in my office for her use, as needed, as well as provided guidance and hugs, as needed. Leyla recently ran into legal problems with an expired passport and the inability to return to Iraq to take care of that issue. I was in Jordan earlier this month for business purposes and called Leyla, worried because she has not responded to email for several weeks. Someone else answered her phone, and if my understanding of the Arabic conversation we had was accurate, that phone number no longer belongs to Leyla. I worry about her. She is as much my child now as my own children. I know that God will watch over her and take care of her until I find her again, but nonetheless I would welcome prayers from readers on her behalf.

Shem was my student as well as work-study assistant. An Iraqi Christian (a small and persecuted group), he thrived in school in spite of being separated from his family, graduating with a 4.0. He has done well also in graduate studies and in subsequent jobs. He, too, called me "Mom," although it did not seem like he needed another mother. Still, he was alone in Jordan and lonely. He emails and Skypes me regularly, and his first words are always, "I miss you sooooo much!" Seeing him in Jordan two weeks ago reminded me how families are families, whether blood or not and whether separated by physical distance or not. We spent hours together. It did not matter what we talked about. I do not even remember half of what we said and did. Rather, I savored the blessing of being able to be together, if only for one day and one night, in spite of living half a world apart in cultures that are rather alien to each other.

Maha's situation is much different. She lives in Bahrain, and she became my "daughter" when I was consulting extensively (over a period of 5 years) for the Ministry of Education there. Shia Muslims, her biological family became embroiled in political machinations over a year ago when her brother was arrested in the dead of the night on a trumped-up charge that has yet to have its day in court. The situation is personally emotionally difficult for me--and truly not understandable--for Donnie taught and I was academic dean for many university students from the ruling Sunni Muslim Al-Khalifa family. The Shia-Sunni hatred dates back to the struggle after the death of the Prophet Mohammed and the murder of Ali, a tragedy and travesty remembered to this day on the 10-day annual Ashara (the word ashara means ten) when Shias take leave from work and commemorate this piece of history, in part by flailing themselves with branches to the point of drawing blood. One would think that this hatred would have died out after 16 centuries, but emotions still run high. Emotions are part and parcel of the Arab world. And so, Maha's brother has been imprisoned for 14 months, during which time he has been beaten to the point of being almost blind. I tried my best to help, and a friend of a friend convinced a specialist in international human rights to go to Bahrain, but to no avail. The US Embassy did not want to get involved, nor did any other international body, and the Bahraini government repelled any appeal. So, we wait--and pray.

I am sure that I am not alone in having adult children who are experiencing difficulties that require assistance beyond what a normal parent like me can provide. If you are one of those "mothers" or "fathers", what have you done? How has God helped you out with these children?

No comments:

Post a Comment