November is National Adoption Month here in the states, so to celebrate I think we should all go out and adopt a child. Just kidding, that would take months and months. I mean, adopting a child is a little more complicated than picking up a kitten at the humane society. But wouldn’t it be lovely if we all had the resources to start the adoption process this month? Even though most of us probably can’t adopt (or foster) a child right now, we can be praying for kids waiting for homes; individuals, couples, and families in the process of or considering adoption; and for the case workers working with both sides.
Since my best friend Sarah transferred to the adoption unit over two years ago, I’ve learned a lot about adoption. Most of the children Sarah works with are older kids whose parents have had their rights terminated as a last resort. These are kids who have been in and out of foster care for years, who have been returned home and then removed again. They have been hurt by those who should have loved them the most and an imperfect system has only added to their alienation. This doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement for adoption, does it?
Here’s the thing—just because a child is difficult does not mean that he or she is defective. When I hear about these kids, something stirs up inside me that screams, “Then I will show that kid the love she never had!” It’s not an easy path. I guess that’s why most people want babies—less emotional baggage, but—oh man!—lots of poopy diapers.
Over the weekend, Sarah and I watched Martian Child starring John Cusack, his sister Joan, and Amanda Peet. The story follows famed science-fiction author David Gordon (John Cusack) as he decides to adopt a young boy who thinks he is from Mars. While the movie makers have taken liberty with the actual adoption process (i.e., sending a social worker for an unannounced visit, not setting up in-home services, and other “behind the scenes” stuff), Martian Child is still a pretty good flick.
Here’s a summation of the plot courtesy of Wikipedia.com, “David Gordon (John Cusack), a popular science fiction author, lost his wife Mary when they were trying to adopt a child. Two years later, David is finally matched with a young boy named Dennis (Bobby Coleman). Socially awkward, Dennis believes he is from Mars and only goes outdoors when under the cover of a large box to block out the sun’s harmful rays. Although initially hesitant to adopt a boy by himself, David recognizes a part of him in Dennis and slowly coaxes him out of the box and into his home.
With the help of David’s friend Harlee (Amanda Peet) and sister Liz (played by Cusack’s real life sister Joan), David and Dennis begin an arduous process of learning about each other, from Dennis’ incessant photo-taking habits, his inclination to eat only Lucky Charms, and his perpetual stealing, to David’s continuing love of his wife, his love of baseball and his own struggles to be accepted by others.
As David teaches Dennis how to be an ‘earthling’, both earns each others’ trust and eventually, they find someone who loves them unequivocally.”
The whole concept is fascinating to me because how many children in foster care waiting to be adopted feel like Martians? How many think that no one loves or wants them? Foster families try, but the homes are temporary at best. Instead of dealing with that reality, Dennis creates his own. He’s on a mission from Mars, so naturally his housing situation is temporary. He has to collect data, learn about humans, and then he will be taken back to his permanent home. The problem is that Dennis knows deep down that he’s not from Mars; he just can’t bear to be a resident of Planet Earth.
Martian Child is chock full of great lines including a conversation between David and Dennis that takes place after David discovers his new son has been stealing items in the house for observation purposes. David asks him, “What are you doing?”
“Learning,” Dennis replies.
“Learning how to be a human, how to be part of a family.”
Oh, man! That line just hits me in the gut! I mean, it sounds like something we’re all trying to do—adopted or not, child or not, parent or not—we’re all trying to learn how to be human and how to be part of our families! It is a never-ending experience!
Dennis also sports a gravity belt (batteries duct taped to an old belt) that keeps him from floating into outer space—a sign that shows Dennis does want to remain on Earth. His social worker points out, “He probably thinks he’s going to float away because he’s intelligent and sees how people and things are temporary.” Oh, Dennis, how I understand!
After an argument with David, Dennis decides the Martians are calling him home and climbs a water tower to meet his family in the sky. But it is David who climbs the water tower to meet Dennis. Once David finally convinces Dennis that he’s just a little boy, the child asks why his family would leave him. Then John Cusack-as-David utters one of the best cinematic lines ever, “Because they’re stupid!” David lists Dennis’ many fine qualities and finishes his monologue with this promise, “There’s nothing you could do that would ever change the way I feel about you.” The music swells and we know there’s a happy ending in sight.
While Dennis’ story is a happy one, it is also a fictional one (based on the award-winning novella by real-life science fiction writer, David Gerrold). There are a lot of interesting kids right here in the United States that would love to be welcomed into the loving arms of a parent—so they can learn how to be human and how to be part of a family.
For more information on adoptions in the United States, head on over to AdoptUSKids.org. Pennsylvania residents, you can check out AdoptPAkids.org to learn about kids who are looking for families. Prayerfully consider if God would have you adopt one of His beloved children.