17 Dec

Last week, we saw Run Free, a movie about Caballo Blanco (real name Micah True, but with a name like Caballo Blanco….well then again, Micah True is a pretty cool name, too).  Caballo Blanco was a man who lived much of his life in the Copper Canyons of Mexico among the Raramuri (the running people), training and living and loving with them.  The story itself is fascinating and inspirational–one about bucking the system and living authentically, being who you really are and finding other people who become your tribe, people who can accept you for you, even though there are parts of you that may be weird, even unlovable.  I loved the movie–while it obviously focused tremendously on running and ultras, so much of it was also about life, about being thankful for what you have, about sharing those gifts and joys with the world.  In fact, if I had to share the main point, I think it might just be that the purpose of life should be to share what you have with the world–whatever gifts you’ve been given (because we have all been given SOMETHING) we need to share them.


One of the things that stood out to me the most was when Caballo talked about “korima,” the native word for giving without expecting anything in return.  “Well duh,” I thought, “of course you give without expecting anything in return.”  But then he told a story of how he went down to the Copper Canyons with a truck full of coats and sweaters to donate.  Every morning, he’d wake up to find food outside of the truck he was sleeping in.  He never knew who was bringing it.  He didn’t know who to thank.  The person or people doing it didn’t do it for the thanks.  They just did it because it was the right thing to do–they had extra, someone else had nothing, so they gave away what little extra they had.  And that’s when I realized korima is a concept that’s pretty foreign to me and I think probably to most of us.  Because even if I physically expect nothing, when I don’t at least get a verbal thank you, I often find myself annoyed.  But in Raramuri tradition, giving is only pure when you expect literally NOTHING–no actions, no gifts, but more importantly no WORDS in return.  And that is a truly beautiful concept.


But the more I think about it, the more I don’t think it can truly exist.  Because even when you aren’t “getting” something, you always “get” something from doing the right thing.  Even Caballo “got” something in return–the love and devotion of a community who ran with him, who searched for him when he disappeared, who mourned for him when he was found dead, who still run a race (unofficially) through drug-cartel territory because it’s tradition, it’s to honor his memory.  Because even when the things you get aren’t physical, you still “get” things in return for doing good things.  And really those non-physical things are usually way better than anything physical anyway.


Eric and I have decided to move forward with the fostering certification process for unaccompanied refugee minors (or URMs).  We attended a meeting, got all of the paperwork, and we’ve already begun discussing how we can rearrange our house and our lives to meet the needs of children who are coming to us from a refugee camp after potentially seeing and experiencing all different kinds of traumas, most of which we can’t even imagine–sexual abuse, labor exploitation, unspeakable violence and uncertainty that no child (or adult really) should ever have to deal with.


We never even considered this option until about 2 or 3 weeks ago.  We wanted to open our home to a family.  We didn’t think about the possibility of fostering refugees.  We actually didn’t even know that it WAS a possibility until we got an email asking if we’d consider it.  But as soon as we read that email, it really seemed like a no-brainer.  At this point, fostering is not about us.  I know some people are thinking this is a way for us to solve our infertility problems and build our family.  And in some ways, yes I suppose there is a little truth in that.  Having kids around here would be pretty cool.  But in reality, it’s not as simple as that.


These kids will never be ours to keep. We will never have the opportunity to adopt them and make them legally our children.  Because of where they come from and the uncertainty of their home countries (meaning they could have other relatives or even parents still alive back home), they will never be adoptable.  They will be eligible to stay with us until they turn 18 (and they sign themselves out of care) or 21 (if things are going well, we can have them until then).  They will get phone cards to call home if they have family there.  I didn’t think to ask at our meeting, but I’m sure if they wanted to go back home and there was a family member there to care for them, they could leave to go back home prior to turning 18.  With fostering, the goal is always reunification of the family when it’s safe for the child(ren).  So they will be “ours” but not entirely ours.  They will probably never call us mom and dad (last night we were discussing what they’d call us actually).  In some ways, I say who cares?  “Traditional” is not necessarily something that really matters to us.  And yet there’s something kind of sad/scary about the uncertainty of raising kids who may never consider us mom and dad, who may choose at 18 (or even before that if family is located) to leave and never come back again.  Do I think that’s the reality of what will happen?  Not necessarily.  Even though the concept of “parent” will be more complex than having a biological kid or even adopting a young child, I still think we will likely form bonds that are deeper than just “thanks for housing me for a few years.”  But we’ve talked about how the ultimate goal with fostering is family reunification, how if after a few years with us family showed up, we’d be happy that “our” kids were back with their families, that we’d have been able to keep them safe and healthy for their families for the time being.  This is what fostering is all about.  It’s not about what WE need.  It’s about what THEY need.


Don’t get me wrong here.  They will be our children in OUR minds.  At the meeting, the woman was talking about respite care–about how if we are taking a family vacation or have to travel because a family member dies, the kids can go stay with a respite care family until we can take them again.  And my first thought was, “What the hell? Aren’t they supposed to be part of the family?? So they go with us on vacations??? They know our families, so if someone dies, they come with us???”  As we left the meeting, that was one of the first thing we discussed–we both had that same reaction of “wait…they are part of our family, why wouldn’t they do ‘family’ stuff with us???”  We are both willing to have kids here who are welcomed, 100% as part of our family.  And I am really excited for that potential, for them, for us, for our family and friends who will get to meet what I am sure will be some incredible kids.


But I am still sad to miss out on things like watching the little-kids-discover-stuff phase (although I’d imagine young adults coming from places with so little will have plenty to discover here).  I zip about a hundred coats every day (ok, so more like 20) before dismissal and sometimes get sad that I may never zip MY kids coat (because as young adults I would think that they are able to zip their own coats, although if they can’t, I will do it for them).  We will not get to raise young children like “normal” parents.  Most likely we’ll have older kids–the kids who come are almost always teenagers, often older teens.  Teenage kids will be cool in some ways, but we are still missing out on the experience of parenting little kids.


And all of these things are ok.  Because this is not about us.  This is ultimately about humans who need something that we can provide.  It’s about giving someone an opportunity, just like a family gave my grandparents an opportunity 60(ish) years ago.


We would be lying if we said that taking on foster refugee kids was korima.  We will be getting a ton out of it.  Kids.  A type of parenting experience.  Learning about new cultures and sharing our own (and I am SUPER excited about that–other cultures are fascinating to me).  It will be challenging, no doubt, but also incredibly fun and rewarding (so ya know…like “real” parenting haha).


But that is not why Eric and I are doing any of this.  We didn’t set out to foster to “fix” our infertility.  [We still aren’t sure what the “fix,” if anything, will be for that right now.]  We are doing it because it feels right.  Because we have space in our home and our hearts, because someone did it for my family, because the thought of a child (because even as young adults, they are still children) spending another night in a lonely, scary refugee camp when they could be here with a loving family (and you, my friends, are part of that loving family) just seems too perfect.  Because we could offer them a chance at experiences, and a loving home full of laughter and support and care, and maybe most importantly a chance at an education and a pay-it-forward mentality to help someone else whenever they can.


This weekend, we will start to get our house ready.  We will fill out paperwork.  Among the many things that you must do to be certified, there are 30 hours worth of classes to take.  The next classes don’t start until late March, so the soonest we would be certified would be summertime.  After certification, we wait for CFC to match us up with kids (based on mutual interests), then we go in to learn more about the kid(s) through paperwork, then we decide whether the kid(s) are going to work for us.  So there’s still a long ways to go before we would actually have any kids here.  We are going to request a sibling group (because having grown up on a “kid farm,” I can’t imagine being an only child; and having lived abroad, I can’t imagine not having had someone there with me–in my case a roommate–to commiserate with and speak English to and be able to get through rough homesick times).  Or maybe we’ll end up with two kids who aren’t siblings but need somewhere to stay.  We would prefer younger kids, but when I think about it, I know that I probably won’t be able to say no to any child who they think would match our interests and what we can offer…because this is not about us.  This is about them.  And whoever or wherever “they” are, we are going to be ready to offer them the love of a family and a community, which is far greater than anything material anyone can offer.


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