Monday, May 2, 2011
A Little Encouragement
With all my documents in order on the New York side, the next step was to bring them to the Chinese Consulate. I assumed this place would be on the East Side of Manhattan near the United Nations, where all the other consular offices are, but it turned out to be as far west as you can go -- i.e., as far away from the United Nations as geographically possible -- on 42nd Street at the corner of the West Side Highway, in a warehouse district (as Otepoti observed, this location was undoubtedly intended to discourage protests, and, though I saw at least two protests going on during the two days I spent there, they were in fact mostly obscured from public view, on the other side of the West Side Highway). The consulate itself, a little piece of the People's Republic of China in America, was everything I imagined it would be: drab, gray, airless and windowless, harshly lit and crammed with hundreds of people, waiting for hours in ten snaking lines, seeking to have documents of various kinds authenticated.
As I waited, a Chinese woman struck up a conversation with me, wondering me what I was there for. I showed her pictures of Jude, and had started to tell her about special-needs Chinese adoptions when I was called to the window. I was couriering a friend's adoption dossier as well as my own, and the friend had given me money to have her documents processed the fastest way possible, by which I would be able to pick them up the next day (I was having our documents processed the usual way, by which I will have to return to New York to pick them up tomorrow), so the next day I was back again on Chinese soil, and waited for two more hours in two separate lines to collect my friend's documents.
While waiting, I saw someone waving to me from one of the lines, and recognized my friend from the day before. She motioned to me to come to join her in her line, which was not far from the window, for which she was roundly scolded by a young Chinese woman who we simply waved on ahead of us. My friend, whose name was Weijin, told me that she had been thinking about our conversation from the day before. She had one daughter, she told me, who was born in China. When she was born, it was evident that she was cognitively disabled, and the doctors told Weijin that it would be better if she allowed her daughter to die. But Weijin and her husband moved to America (they are naturalized citizens) and raised their daughter.
Weijin took out pictures, and I saw a round-faced girl with shining black hair, smiling broadly out of a school picture. The girl, who Weijin and her husband named Ying -- which, she said, means "a little encouragement" -- is now twenty-four, and attends a sheltered workshop during the day. Weijin said that for years she had asked God why He'd given her such a painfully disabled daughter, one so demanding, one in need of so much more than just a little encouragement. Now, however, she realizes that her beautiful daughter is a great gift, and she told me that, since our conversation of the previous day, she had decided that she, too, wanted to adopt a special-needs child from China. We cried and hugged each other as we stood there, causing some bemusement in the line behind us.
It's often (though not always) been my experience that, in the midst of the most annoying, trying, and harassing errands, something will happen that shifts my focus away from my annoyance and opens, as it were, a small door onto eternity. I hope, as I always do, that I might have been able to convey an inkling of Christ's mercy, or at least a little encouragement, to Weijin, and I pray for her family and her adoption plans.
(Above: The ensemble "Gambei!" from the Metropolitan Opera's 2011 revival of John Adam's Nixon in China.)