Avery took me to a fantastic Ethipian restaraunt for our 7th anniversary this weekend. It was absolutely wonderful. We had a wonderful time talking with the owner over bunna (coffee). We talked about Ethiopian politics, religion, tribes, language, the Aiyadjebo (Mr. Hyenna)song we like to sing, and food.
He told of the difficulties faced by Ethiopians; the many freedoms that Americans take for granted. He said that Americans might think that terrorism is a new thing since 9-11, but to many people, including Ethiopians, terrorism is nothing new. He talked about the religious persecution he and his family faced as Christians in a Muslim-dominated part of Ethiopia. He told of the five years he spent as a political refugee in Sudan and the religious and ethnic persecution he endured there. He told of friends that have been slaughtered in Ethiopia because they were Christians. He told of how it took him years of being in America before he no longer feared the police. Yet, this man was one of the most kind and confident people you would ever want to meet. With great pride, he told us of his people as a shy, yet confident people who are very respectful of others. He spoke with fondness of enjoying bunna several times each day with his many friends in Harar, and of teasing the djebo (hyennas) at night. As a child, he and his brother would throw just one piece of meat to the the djebo just to see them fight over it! It did my heart much good to spend the evening with our new friend.
The waitress had told him that we were adopting from Ethiopia, so when he came to introduce himself, he said, "Ah, so you are the ones who are doing this noble thing!" Now, we get that a lot. People who want to tell us what a great thing we're doing; how we're "saving" these kids. Don't get me wrong, the statistics for Ethiopian orphans are staggering. It breaks my heart to imagine what would become of them if they weren't being adopted into a family. But I never want them to feel like they are our "project" or that they somehow owe us for coming to the rescue. They owe us nothing. They are our children and we would go to any length for any of our children. Period. Our love is as close to unconditional as you'll find outside of God's love. So, normally when people tell me how lucky my kids are, I respond by saying, "No, we're the lucky ones." I know that comments like this are mostly pure-hearted, but I just don't want to encourage them because I never ever want my children to sense that they need to feel indebted to us.
However, when an Ethiopian says this to me, it is different. It is different because they know first-hand what a blessing it is to live in America, free to enjoy religious, ethnic, and political rights that they never before tasted. When Ethiopians see the pictures of my Ethiopian children, there is a pride in their eyes. One Ethiopian woman I met kissed their pictures and cried, "Oh my children are so beautiful! My children, my children!" It's as though they understand something that I as an American will never comprehend. I feel very humbled and honored when I am blessed in this adoption by an Ethiopian. Yet still, I reply, "Aye, Aye. Buruknen" No, no, WE are blessed!" I hope that I will be able to bless them, but there's no doubt that they are already a blessing to me.
My prayer is that the next time I sip bunna with an Ethiopian, that it will be in Addis Abeba with my children eating injera and wot next to me.