“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Today is my birthday, or at least the day I celebrate the day of my birth. Due to the circumstances of my birth, which I don’t know for sure, I also don’t know my real date of birth. About three years ago I went to Turkey hoping to find some clue or, more specifically, the answers. I wanted to find my mother. I wanted to find out my date of birth. I wanted to know if I had brothers or sisters. I wanted to meet my father, if possible. I wanted to know what my genetic predispositions might be (besides baldness). I got none of that. I didn’t uncover even the slightest clue. I put months of planning, hoping, and praying into this adventure and I didn’t uncover even the slightest clue.
Was this a disappointment?
Perhaps it should have been. I didn’t get what I wanted. Somehow, however, I got what I needed. I recovered part of my soul. It happened on my third night there.
My first two days in Turkey were spent helping my host, a pastor, prepare for a wedding. It was at a Christian campground. I spent much of the first day helping people clean up the campground and making it look presentable. The wedding took up all of the next day. Most of the third day was taken up by church, shopping and lunch. When we finally got home around 4:00, I was feeling emotionally exhausted from all the people contact. I love people, but I also need a lot of time to myself. So I went to my host and said I needed to take a walk. He drew a map for me so I wouldn’t get lost and off I went.
As I walked the streets of Izmir, I began hearing something I hadn’t heard in almost 50 years – people speaking Turkish. Young people, the elderly, children, and couples – everyone was speaking it. I felt as if something were coming alive in me. I walked for about an hour. Then I heard music. It was coming from a small boat tethered to a dock. It was a group of sailors drinking, singing, laughing and talking. I joined them for a while, taking in a Turkish experience.
An interesting side note to this is the following: I spent the first year-and-a-half of my life in an orphanage, hearing Turkish. When I was adopted, I began hearing English. Eventually I completely forgot Turkish. But that made me, at least for a while, a second-language learner, just like many of the students I teach. The circle enclosed on that dock.
Another powerful experience came the next day when my host and I flew to Ankara. We found the orphanage where I was left as a child. The administrators were kind, but they were unable to help me with my goal. Still, it was a positive experience. There were other adventures, but these two stood out because they connected me to my past.
It was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. It wasn’t closure, because I still didn’t get any of my questions answered. But I did all I could do. I even had help and I didn’t find what I was looking for. But it was okay. I finally got to see Turkey. I got to see the land of my birth. I may have been within yards of my actual birthplace. I can only surmise my origins. Most likely, my birth mother was a young and unwed Muslim girl who got pregnant. Muslim laws are not very kind, especially to women and she probably feared for her life. So she hid in a house or an apartment somewhere, perhaps with her parents, gave birth to me, and then left me wrapped in blankets on a street corner where I would be found quickly.
Again, that’s all a guess, but when I met the Director of Adoptions for all of Turkey, he told me stories like mine were commonplace in Turkey. He told me that there was no hope of ever finding my mother. Perhaps he’s right, but there often the end of hope is the beginning of an unseen opportunity. It’s been almost three years, and I still believe that my mother might be found some day. I believe that anything is possible, especially good things. I think in order for that to happen, I need to Get Started and Keep Going and I won’t be disappointed.