Enamored With These Beautiful, Young Faces

“It takes a lot for our hearts and our minds and our eyes to get there, where we start viewing groups that look different than us not as groups but as individuals.”

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Transcript for Enamored With These Beautiful, Young Faces

So my husband and I, we’ve adopted two girls who were born in China. When we were going through the application process early on for our first adoption, I spent many, many hours looking at what are called referral photos. And a referral photo is the photo that an adoptive family receives when they have been matched with a specific child abroad. So at least in the China program, the way it works is, you don’t know who you are going to be adopting ahead of time. At some point late in the process, the Chinese agency matches a specific child with your specific family and you receive the photo. And so when you receive the photo it’s, it’s a big event.

To help pass the time and as a way of encouraging myself, I would go online, and I would look at referral photos that other families had posted. And I was fascinated with these photographs. Curious about where they were from, learning the different regions of China, and was just enamored with these beautiful, young faces.

So eventually we receive our referral photo and six weeks later we go and we meet our daughter for the first time and come home and finalize the adoption process.

So fast forward maybe five years, I was watching a film–it’s a story of a married couple, the wife ends up working in an orphanage–and I recall so clearly watching a particular scene in this movie where there’s a very slow pan over this room of children in this orphanage. It would linger on individual faces, and as I was watching this scene, I remember thinking, ‘Oh, look at her fine features, she really reminds me of Raina,’ and, ‘Wow, look, that girl, she kinda has wavy hair, and that’s like Sophia’s, and, boy, you don’t really expect that. Oh, that person has a toothy grin just like Maylin does.’ And I realized I was visually processing this group as a group of individuals. They jumped out at me as individual faces. And I was just startled because I thought to myself if this had been an orphanage in India, I could almost guarantee that I would have not visually processed this scene in the same way because I don’t have a bank of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of images of the vast variety of faces like I do for China.

I really think it was looking at all of those photos for all of those months that helped me finally see this group as just a bunch of individuals together. And it took a lot. It took a lot to get there. I didn’t even know it was happening. It was completely unconscious.

It just, I think, takes a lot for our hearts and our minds and our eyes to get there, where we start viewing groups that look different from us not as groups, but as individuals.

  • Bryn Cooley

    This was incredibly thought-provoking, I really loved the conclusion. The idea of individualism is definitely valued in our society, and the ability to see others as individuals rather than part of a group seems to bespoke a kind of personhood in a way that ‘members of a group’ are not acknowledged as. This was really beautiful, and the process of adoption also sounded fascinating.

  • Caitlin Littlejohn

    I know this wasn’t the main focus of this particular story, but I LOVE the idea of adopting without being able to see the face of the adoptee. It’s a beautiful picture of loving another human based on who he or she is on the inside.