Heal the world, make it a better place, for you and for me and the entire human race” – Michael Jackson, Heal the World 

#WorldAdoptionDay: Yes, It is an actual DAY. On November 9, 2015, multitudes of people from all over the world will celebrate World Adoption Day.

My 19-year-old cousin was adopted as an infant from China. The orphanage she lived in was overcrowded, and there was minimal nurturing. There were six babies to a crib, and they stayed in the cribs most of the day. Many of the babies stayed on their backs, and some had a flattened heads and weak muscle tone as a result. This vision makes me cringe. But things turned out well for my cousin. She was adopted and is now attending a 4-year college.

One of the people in my running group was adopted from Kazakhstan at 9 years old. She lived in orphanages until she was adopted. She told me that she did not know her birth parents, and she knew she had been left at the orphanage by someone other than her mom. She then told me she had just unearthed some of her birth documents, and there are two different birthdates. One is in the spring, and one is in the fall. Her story made me slow down as I envisioned her journey in orphanages and then what her feelings must have been when she found the paperwork.

She then made a statement that made my eyes wet with tears.  She was talking about moving to a different state. She said she would start packing soon, because, “You never know when you have to up and leave.” All I could see is this little innocent girl being told one day to pack up, she was going to another place. She would pack her bag as quickly as she was told to, and then she would be pushed through the doors of another orphanage.

The stories and the visions tear at my heart. These stories will shift to the front of my mind on World Adoption Day. I will give thanks to Bethany Christian Services for placing me in a wonderful loving foster home, one with formula, plenty of diaper changes, and lots of nurturing. I will be reminded on November 9 that my life before being placed for adoption was blessed compared to the lives of other orphans.

The backstory to World Adoption Day is inspiring and the motto is simple. The founder is Hank Fortener. He grew up in Ohio, in a family that adopted 8 children from 5 countries and fostered 36. When he became an adult, he became a pastor, and in January 2012 founded a nonprofit campaign aimed at helping people afford adoption, called Adopt Together.  On November 9, 2014, Hank launched the first World Adoption Day campaign.

His mission statement:  “A world with no more orphans, a family for every child.” I will high-five that one! He also created a simple symbol that he is asking everyone touched by adoption to draw on their hand and post on social media for all to see:

Rebecca Tillou

#WorldAdoptionDay

The smiley face is simple, yet the meaning is so deep. To me it symbolizes the simple, innocent smile of children worldwide waiting and hoping to find forever families. It symbolizes the smiles that cross adoptive families’ faces when they receive the verification that they have been chosen to be the parents of a child. The last thing this symbol means to me is the happiness that is adoption.  Yes, there are struggles when adopting, especially outside the United States, but remember: through struggles comes strength, and in the realm of adoption, through struggles comes the strength of unconditional love, sacrifice, and forever families.

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