Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sterling Mei: (13) Origins From a Watchtower

My family is rich with stories of what life was like before I was born. As a child I loved to sit at the feet of my Papaw and Pop and listen to tales of their childhood. Even now as I have children of my own I like to reflect on the lore of our family and tell my kids about what has brought us to this place and made us who we are. With adopted children it is no different. History is important. And since very little is known about the origins of our adopted daughters, it becomes vital that we understand as much as possible about the culture from which they come.

Our agency, Children's Hope International has allowed us the past 24 hours to experience first hand a little of the legacy of the nation of China. We have been able to put feet on the ground of history and take in a bit of the massive scale and scope of the power of this land and the tenacity of a people.

Kel and I layered and bundled up as tightly as we could against the bitter cold that rode on the biting wind that chilled us to the bone in Tiananmen Square. We stood braced against the wind that reddened and chapped our faces as we listened to the stories of military triumph and the unforgivable tragedy of the government massacre of its own people in 1989. Our guide, Lee, explained that the surface of the square had to be dug up and replaced to remove the abundance of blood that was spilled by the guns and tanks. Bullet holes were still visible in the base of the monument in the center of the square.

Later we talked at length about the spirit and simple goodness of the people, and the totalitarian rule of the government on a society that had been feudally based for over 2000 years. So many Americans take for granted the freedoms that our people have fought and died to attain. There is no Bill of Rights in this land. There is order, and there is security… but it comes at an ultimate price.

And yet… as can be seen in the annals of history, no matter how intense or bleak the situation, the human spirit can find beauty. And I must tell you; we have encountered beauty in this culture that leaves us breathless. It is found in the quiet grace of a cup of tea, in the quiet, deliberate carriage of the people, and in the true art of the cuisine. The people of China have created beauty, turning everyday culture into living art. Kellie and I are so honored to share these days among them, and we look forward to telling Sterling of how we were moved by each experience.

We made our way across Tiananmen Square, which we learned has the space for 1 million people in this city of 20 million, and this nation of 1.6 billion. Citizens gather in mandatory celebration of their leadership at least once per year… but the bitter cold of today has left it wide open. We crossed underneath Circle Road #1 and made our way to the Forbidden City. It was amazing to learn of the power and holiness of the Emperors of three separate dynasties that ruled this nation as a something higher than mortal and slightly lower than Gods.

An hour drive from the Forbidden City, we found ourselves at the 3rd wall that protected the Emperor from outside attack… The Great Wall of China that has stood for over 2000 years. The existing wall is the 3rd wall built, the first two being of earth. My spirit was humbled to climb up the wall and view mountains that countless feet have trod and my gaze scanned these surrounding mountains in an endless panorama as I added my sensory experience to the ages. Kellie and I made our way on foot to the highest peak, climbing to the top and then scaling the ancient steps of the highest tower to view the vast mountainscapes that seemed endless in all directions. We could trace the spine of the wall that ran up and down through valley and peaks that extended beyond our view.

Perspective is a powerful thing. I imagined soldiers on watch along the wall, defending their land against marauders, Mongolians, and plundering nomads. As I stood on top of that watchtower that had protected Emperors and a people for thousands of years, my own mind looked back at where I had been, as well as look forward to places that I might go… and could never go.
The realization of both helped me to understand exactly the place I stood. May I never lose the perspective gained at that moment.

Presently I write on board China Southern Airline, Airbus 321, flight CZ3102 as we approach Guangzhou. Tomorrow we will for the first time meet our daughter, Sterling. We cannot see everything from this watchtower… but we know where we have been. We know what has brought us here. We cannot know every possible way that we have yet to go, but we know the place we want to be.

And we make this journey one step at a time. Some day, our children will tell the lore of our experience. And we trust that their story will give them what they need as they each climb to their own watchtowers to learn the perspectives of their own sojourn.

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