A Couple of Degrees

Jill forwarded me a link to a New York Times article from March 23 titled “Adopted in China, Seeking Identity in America”. The second girl mentioned shares a first name with Maggie ( Qiu ). It was this, probably insignificant, detail that drew me into the story.

What is it that captures our attention and connects us to a story?

You can see this in people who play the lottery. After the nightly number is announced they say “oh, I had all but three of the numbers.” The degrees of separation from a winning lottery number are such that a huge number of people feel close to the winning number. Close enough that they play again and again.

We do it with our sports teams. We are moved by victories or losses by people who happen to be employed by the local franchise. These may be people who could care less about our town. These players might rush back to their real homes once the season is over and take their time coming back to their local homes when the season starts. But when they put on the local colors, their success or failure can move us and the people we interact with. The team might play somewhere near you or near where you grew up or it has a practice facility in your town or someone you know works with someone involved in the team. Just a few degrees of separation.

We read of someone who ran a red light and crashed their SUV into another car. We think, we were just over there the other day. That could have been us. Maybe it’s less of a direct connection. Maybe it’s as simple as the fact that we drive too. It could somehow have been us.

There are some who group us together based on our zodiac sign, the year we were born, the area we grew up in, the high school or college we might have graduated from. a television show or radio host we might have tuned in to, or some other shared memory. These are some of the more loosely grouped clubs that Chuck talked about us joining in a comment attached to a previous entry.

Maggie’s club goes back to 1991. According to the article there were “61 Chinese children adopted by Americans in 1991, and Qiu Meng was one of the 206 adopted the next year, when the law was fully put into effect. Last year, more than 7,900 children were adopted from China.”

I don’t remember it being quite so common when we traveled to China in 1997. Then again, I had a colleague at Oberlin who had been through the process. He and his wife helped us in many ways and introduced us to two other families who were going through the same process with different agencies.

The three girls, Maggie, Cassie, and Bethany, adopted within months of each other and  close in age, all attended the same pre-school together. There’s a bond that’s hard to explain. They’re all in the same club. Cassie’s sister Susie is also in the same club. In fact, the three families got together to celebrate Susie’s first birthday before her parents had gone to meet her in China.

Elena never really understood that she wasn’t a member of this club. In fact, my friend Stephen would always do a double take when he saw Elena because he forgot that she wasn’t Chinese. He’d see her and nod and say “oh that’s right. She’s not.” The other girls would never make fun of the fact that she wasn’t adopted and they, like Maggie’s Shen sisters, adopted her into their group.

There are now fifty-five thousand children adopted from China. Fifty-five thousand people that Maggie has a connection to.

Published in: on March 24, 2006 at 12:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

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