It's one thing to know about a social issue, and it is another thing to take it personally.
All my life racial jokes bothered me. I never understood racism, and hearing racist people make disparaging comments bothered me. But now, it's completely different. Wwhen I hear someone talking about "those dirty Mexicans" they are talking about MY children. When they refer to Central American immigrants who come to take our jobs, they're talking about MY children, When they mention those "mixed race people" they're talking about MY son. When they tell jokes or make slurs about Asians or Hispanics or Blacks, those are MY kids.
All my life I've heard about abused and neglected children. I've heard about how they are treated and I was bothered on a surface level by something that should be different in our world. But when I started reading case files of MY kids, then it became infuriating, devastating, heart breaking to realize what adults can do to children.
All my life I've been opposed to alcohol use. I've seen what it can do to people. But until I have watched what it has done to MY children -- as they have been abused at the hand of a drunken parent, it was just a challenge that we faced as a society. Until I saw what alcohol has done to damage the brains of MY sons when they were in the womb, women drinking during pregnancy was just an unfortunate social issue.
All my life I've been confused by the welfare system and wondered why people had to receive social services. Until MY son who is 20 years old started holding down a full time job at minimum wage. His check covers his cell phone, gas, car insurance and car repairs. Sometimes I force him to buy new work clothes, but otherwise he spends no money. And he is in debt. Then all the sudden I understand that society needs to do a better job of providing for those who cannot get a college education and that maybe they ARE working hard. And I start talking to him about a second job.
All my life I've known that IQ is not something we choose and that there are those who are lower functioning. But when I discovered that one of MY sons has an IQ below 70 and will have services for life but another son has an IQ of 80 and will never be able to live independently but will never receive services, I begin to wonder if maybe we are not approaching things correctly.
All my life I've known that foster care is not a place for children and that sometimes counties make decisions that aren't always in the best interest of children. But when MY son is pulled out of a wonderful residential facility where he was making great progress only to be put in a foster care placement for 3 weeks until it blew up -- and then put in juvenile detention for a week that turned into 5 months because there was no place else to put him -- then it becomes a travesty.
All my life I've known that there are individuals who are not treated well when they are incarcerated. I have known that the guards distance themselves from those they are guarding and that it is not a great environment. But when my husband overhears them saying that they hope MY son goes to prison it becomes very painful.
All my life I've wondered why society isn't more rehabilitative and why there aren't more programs for people leaving jail, but when MY son is discharged at 6:00 a.m. and has no place to go, it's suddenly a much more significant issue.
I could go on for hours with examples. But one of the ills of society is that those with the brains, the money, the education, the experience to make a difference in the lives of those who are marginalized are distanced enough from the problems that they don't need to get involved.
Adoption is one way that this gap is bridged. But in the midst of parenting our children and the time and energy that takes, we often aren't sure where to begin. But now that we've taken it personally, we have to do something.