Roger Marolt: Roger This
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
I was not going to write about Haiti. I believed the pictures said it all. But, if pictures are worth a thousand words, a conscience in turmoil churns through millions more during a night of fitful sleep.
The beginning of my most recent odyssey to find my place in this world of suffering and joy came over a cup of coffee and the morning paper.
“We should adopt a Haitian orphan,” my wife said.
“Yeah,” I replied, imagining sending off $50 checks each month with the expectation of receiving periodic photo updates and notes of gratitude from a child we sponsor. Then I looked up. Her eyes were glassy, reflecting what she is looking at in the world so that I could see it, too.
“Oh,” I said, halting, grasping for words. “You mean bringing another child into our family … here.”
Instinct prevailed. I am wired to resist. I didn’t say it, but I thought it with a knot in my gut. “We shouldn’t do that. We can’t do that.”
There are so many reasons. I’m too old, for starters. By the time a new baby of ours graduated high school, I would be in my late 60s. As much as I love chasing my kids around, it’s exhausting now, when I’m young(ish).
Financially it would be a huge strain. We are already on the verge of sending three kids to college. That’s about $25,000 per year each for a state school and $45,000-plus if they decide to go anywhere else. They say it costs about a quarter of a million dollars to raise a kid today.
Then there’s trying to get the most bang for our bucks. If we really want to do the maximum amount of good, wouldn’t it be better to spread the cost of raising one child in Aspen, Colo., over hundreds, maybe thousands, of children who are left behind in Haiti? It seems like that would be a more prudent use of resources.
We have our own kids to consider, too. How would such a drastic change affect them? All family resources, financial to emotional, would be spread thinner. It’s not just about Susan and me.
Finally, parenting is a vocation, not a charitable endeavor. You can’t just take on raising kids out of kindness. You have to be up for the job. It has to be your primary focus and the most important thing in your life. I know this is the case with our three kids now. But, they are growing up. Will our vocation be fulfilled when they are raised? Shouldn’t we naturally move on to a new one rather than begin the old one all over?
We barely needed to mention these things. They are obvious obstacles, large enough to block any unambiguous view of our future. The strange thing is that after the momentary lapse into the familiar comfort of resisting I didn’t dismiss the notion. I said we should think and pray about it, not make any hasty decisions. No rush. As the Lord perfectly predicted, the poor will always be with us.
That night I crawled into my down-filled cocoon, believing that the morning would dawn clear and the idea of us adopting a Haitian child would be seen for what it is, laughable, a moment of sentimental foolishness.
Despite my secret hope for neat resolution spawned by nerve, answers came that I didn’t necessarily want: There are older parents that we know who are doing just fine in raising their kids. Financially it would undoubtedly be a stretch, but we could cut back in travel, retirement comfort, and some of the other luxuries we have taken for granted that suddenly stand out glaringly by contrast. Our own kids are filled with enough of their own love to gladly share all they have with another child. They are not too shallow to benefit immensely from this. I believe Susan and I are good parents. Of all the roles we play in life, parenting is what we get the most satisfaction out of and put the most energy into. The greatest rewards we realize come from within our family.
Lastly, the accountant in me had to overcome the reckoning that the money we would spend on raising another child here would go a lot farther and help many more kids who will remain in Haiti. Then a terrible moment of clarity came. What if Susan and I and every other adult relative and friend close to us were killed in a horrific tragedy … and our children survived. What would I hope for them? It wouldn’t simply be that they get enough food, shelter and clothing to survive to adulthood within whatever social network they could patch together from scratch. I pray instead that good people would take them in, love them, and nurture them for the rest of their lives in our absence.
A human life is of infinite worth. An actuary can place a more definitive value on a person by extrapolating the notional value of their contribution to society over their life expectancy. But, in reality, there is no amount of money that you would accept in exchange for the life of somebody you love dearly. Everybody should be so loved as to make their life that precious. If one life is of infinite value, then it is worth the same as all others combined. As difficult as that is to explain, it now makes sense to me.
So, here’s the thing. I don’t know if we are going to adopt a Haitian baby. But, I do know that I am excitedly holding that door open. What’s really cool is that I am finding myself getting beyond barriers that I used to think insurmountable. Making life changes in order to help others is not just for the exceptional people I read about in the newspapers. Anybody can do it. It’s true!
All my life I have strived to achieve in athletics, education, work and recreation. Much of that effort has resulted in extrinsic rewards of determinable and mostly transient value. Why have I neglected similar effort in helping others in need, where the rewards are of immense, permanent value? Aside from fear, there is no good answer.
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