041: Searching for Our Uprooted Roots

    In the end, Faith is a yearning for Home that’s stronger than Death itself.
    Many of the great spiritual sages have said this in some form, including Robert Frost, Frederick Buechner, Rob Bell and Jesus himself.
    Of course, this all depends on how we conceive the idea of “Home” — and, today, we’re going to consider the crisis this whole idea presents, at some point, for the more than 2 million children in this country who are living with adoptive parents — as well as the countless others who are separated from their parents, but aren’t fortunate enough to have an adoptive home.

    But today’s reflections are not “downers” for a limited number of readers. Quite the contrary! This actually is an uplifting story, today, with news for Everyone as we share 3 things:
    First, a review of a terrific film about these themes that’s so innovative and inspiring that you should make it a part of your Thanksgiving celebration next week.
    Second, news of a great new book for parents who have adopted children — about how to handle this tricky issue of exploring the past, especially if you’re a family for whom spiritual values illuminate the entire process.
    And, third, the book’s co-author Carissa Woodwyk has given all of us a gift today! In addition to having written portions of today’s recommended book — she’s sharing with us her own personal, moving story of struggling with these issues — a story that you can read right here on our Web site.

     So, FIRST — the movie is called “August Rush.”
    It opens on Wednesday for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, and I can assure you of this: If you want something to be thankful for this year, go see this gloriously inventive movie that uses music as a metaphor for an abandoned boy’s transcendent desire to reunite his shattered family.
    Freddie Highmore plays August Rush, whose fantastical musical gifts turn the whole story into a fable about the deepest human desires for Home.
    In fact, the movie borrows liberally from “Oliver Twist,” with Robin Williams playing a desperate and, eventually, an absolutely despicable Fagin-like character. Williams is a street-savvy con man who teaches abandoned children to become street musicians in the hope of someday striking it rich by managing a true musical star.
    At first, this Fagin discovers and befriends August — but, when the boy’s musical talents blossom, he winds up nearly destroying the boy.
   While that may make the movie sound like yet another rewarming of leftover storylines, the homage to Charles Dickens only adds to the fairy-tale quality of the film. In fact, it’s the magical fusion of musical styles throughout the movie — from rock and folk to classical to jazzy new renditions of natural and urban soundscapes — that make this a theatrical experience you won’t want to miss.
    (Special Note to our Rob Bell fans! If you love Rob’s Nooma film, “Rhythm” — well, “August Rush” is like a feature-length meditation on Rob’s “Rhythm” theme. It’s not as theological as Rob’s reflection — but it’s the same message loud and clear with similar creative elements in the storytelling.)
    “August Rush” opens with the abandoned boy who will become famous as a musical prodigy standing all alone in a lush green field of chest-high grasses, conducting the breezes that paint swirls in the moving sea of green and raise whooshing sounds into a symphony of natural noise.
    He narrates the opening sequence, inviting us to: “Listen! Can you hear it? The music?
    “I can hear it everywhere,” he says. “In the wind. In the air. In the light.”
    Reading this, can you “hear” the spiritual winds blowing through this whole story?

    Now, SECOND — if you are skeptical about the significance of these yearnings among abandoned and even adopted children, turn to the new book co-authored by Carissa Woodwyk, a marriage and family therapist who also was adopted from Korea as a child.
    I telephoned Woodwyk to ask her what she makes of what seems like a huge new wave of interest in these issues. Just a couple of weeks ago, the New York Times Magazine devoted an extensive feature story to the growing networks of professionals helping families explore the birth stories of adopted children.
    “There’s definitely a whole different approach to this emerging than when I was adopted in 1975,” she said. “Back then, I don’t even think it entered people’s minds to go searching for birthparents.
    “Part of the reason that people didn’t think much about searching for birthparents, back then, is the way people thought about the adoption process. They thought about it more like this great thing for this great, white, American family with all of these resources to adopt a child and rescue them from a life that could have been desperate in their home country. So, why even think about that past life? All that seemed to matter was the great new life the American family was giving these children.
    “Now, ethnic diversity is much more celebrated in the U.S. than it was back when I was adopted and, now, parents realize that culture brings a richness to life. So, a lot of adoptive parents are encouraging children to know about their roots. More and more parents are even helping their children search for answers, which is why we wrote this book to help parents do this in a way that is truly helpful to the children.”

    CLICK ON the bookcover to jump to our review of this wonderful new book — and purchase a copy if you wish.

    In the book, Woodwyk and her co-author (pictured above) describe how families can structure such a search — and can use the information that is gathered to be most helpful to children.
    “The first thing that parents need to realize about their adopted children is that they need to normalize the adoption experience,” Woodwyk said. “In other words, we need to help children normalize the fact that they’re going to have these feelings in their lives. Sometimes, they’re even going to act out, because of this — acting out to try to prove that parents really should not want them, because they’ve been rejected in the past.
    “If they’re sad, you need to talk about that. And if you child says, I’m just thinking about my birth Mom, then you have to enter into those conversations with them. Let them know that you’re sad with them, that you hurt with them.
    “Let them know it’s OK to think about these things and explore these questions.

    AND THEN, Woodwyk said this — which loops us back to connect with “August Rush” —
    She used this metaphor as we talked: “In these difficult times, a parent should pursue the child’s heart. A parent should try to tune themselves to their child’s heart.”
     But, we won’t say more about her book, at this point. Buy a copy, if it appeals to you. Because, NOW, we really want to encourage you to hear Woodwyk’s own voice — her own story in her own words.

    At ReadTheSpirit, one of our core principles is encouraging people to connect with the spiritual power in the Voices of people all around us as they tell their own stories.
    And, today, Woodwyk has given us a great gift — her personal story of wrestling with these issues.
    CLICK HERE to read Carissa’s adoption story in her own words — which is our THIRD offering for today.

    PLEASE — Tell us what you think. You can leave a Comment for our readers by clicking on the Comment link at the end of this story. (If you’re reading an Email version of this story, you’ll need to click on the headline, jump to our Web site and find the Comment link at the bottom of this story.)
    OR — You can Email me, David Crumm, by Clicking Here.

    DON’T MISS our Thanksgiving week stories!
    We’re cooking up a spiritual feast for you!

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