In the July 3-10, 2006 issue of Newsweek online there is a small article about an adoptive family returning to Russia to visit the birth family of the two daughters adopted into the author's family. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13528589/site/newsweek/
The article starts: "Last year my husband and I were in St. Petersburg, Russia, meeting the family who had given up our daughters for adoption."
I am so thankful that my husband and I (who have had the great blessing of adopting two beautiful boys) had a superior social worker spend several hours with us prior to our adoption experience. We learned from her that our sons' birthparents did not "give up" their children (as if they had been held at gunpoint and forced to relinquish them), but rather they "lovingly placed them in our adoptive home." This phrase allows the birthparents and the adoptive family to see the depth of love it takes on the part of the birthparents (no matter what the circumstances surrounding the adoption) to actually seek out an alternative family for the child they love and yet feel they cannot care for as well as they wish.
The Washington Post (and many other media) recently posted an article about "Social Isolation in America." Some meaningful-to-me quotes:
"Americans are far more socially isolated today than they were two decades ago, and a sharply growing number of people say they have no one in whom they can confide..."
"A quarter of Americans say they have no one with whom they can discuss personal troubles... Overall, the number of people Americans have in their closest circle of confidants (is) about two."
"We're not saying people are completely isolated. They may have 600 friends (via the internet) and e-mail 25 people a day, but they are not discussing matters that are personally important."
"Putnam and Smith-Lovin said Americans may be well advised to consciously build more relationships."
Why is this topc meaningful to me? Because I have been thinking about and trying to "consciously build" relationships that are close, in which I can discuss matters of importance (beyond superficial). Two things have happened in my family's life in the past two years that have made their mark on me and how I see relationships:
Through a time of unemployment, I came to realize that receiving significant support from people really meant that I needed their relationships first and their physical assistance (meals, toys for our kids at Christmas, etc.) second. If I as the receipient don't know you (the giver), your giving might seem to me to be "just throwing money at a problem." However, if we have a relationship in which we've supported each other in the past, your giving will probably seem like something that friends do for each other and will be a true blessing.
We recently changed churches to one that is in our community (rather than one that was 20 highway minutes away that draws people from a 20-mile radius). It has been a difficult change because of the lack (so far) of intimacy in relationships there. One of our hopes upon going to a church closer to home was greater abilty to have intimate relationships because the people we now go to church with live closer to us than those we attended church with before.
What have I been learning? First, I will always have to be an initiator in both beginning new relationships AND in continuing those that I desire to deepen. Second, I don't want the "600 friends" mentioned in the article; rather, I want a handful of close friends who live in my community that help me meet social needs at 3 levels: for me as a woman (daughter, wife, mother, and friend), for my husband and me as a couple with other couples, and for our family of 4 with other families.
The closer I get to 40, the more I am de-cluttering my life of knick-knacks and things I haven't used in forever in an attempt to streamline my surroundings. I've noticed this is happening in my approach to everything, including relationships. I don't want to waste time reading "joke" emails that get sent around the world, or catching up on the latest catalog sales. I want to be face-to-face in relationship with people discussing and living life together. How about you?