It may take more than a few decades to change China’s culture to value girls equal to boys. China’s government is working to make that happen—that journey started in 1949, when Mao said, “Women hold up half the sky.” It isn’t easy overcoming several thousand years of culture.
Faith’s journey started at the age of two from rural China where poverty and a life of hard labor can be crushing. To encourage poor parents, who want a boy instead of a girl, not to throw a female infant in the closest river, government run orphanages have a no-punishment policy toward parents that abandon girls. Orphanages are surrounded by a wall with a drawer in that wall where parents may leave the child. The parent rings a bell, then hurries away.
Michelle Dremmer traveled from Chicago to China more than fifteen years ago to rescue one of those orphans. She fell in love with the two-year-old, who was past the desired age of many adoptive parents, and she gave Faith a life of “happiness, opportunity and love” that few orphans in China experience.
Another journey of five-hundred miles started on bikes and ended in tragedy for Faith, who was 17. I first wrote about this in Saying Goodbye, soon after hearing about the accident that claimed Faith’s life. Two of the girls survived. One spent eleven hours in surgery.
The driver of the van, who hit the girls, was an 86-year-old man. He was not injured. A friend of the driver said he was a good Christian who never drank and was close to his family—three children, six grandchildren and several great-grandchildren. I cannot imagine the burden of guilt he will carry for what life he has left.
I cry easily watching movies. It doesn’t take much to turn on the tears. My wife and daughter know this and when one of those scenes appears on the screen, they always look.
Doesn’t make sense. I shouldn’t cry that easily. After all, I’m a former United States Marine. I fought in Vietnam and taught in tough, barrio schools for thirty years where you had to be “mean” (what I call tough love without physical violence) to survive. It embarrasses me when those tears appear in public against my will.
The tears let lose this morning when I was alone. I went on-line and read about Faith’s funeral in the Chicago Tribune. Nearly 1,300 mourners attended. Actually, I read six pieces that started with the accident and Faith’s death to the one where a photo with my daughter and three of Faith’s friends were walking back into the temple with their arms around each other. They had just carried Faith’s coffin to the hearse.
In another Chicago Tribune piece, there’s a picture showing the four girls carrying the coffin from the temple. The pain is etched on their faces. Maybe I cry easily when others suffer because I saw so much brutality and death in the war, or it’s something in my DNA that I inherited from my mother. She was the weepy sort—not my father.
I’m looking at the “goodbye” photo in the Chicago Tribune as I write this. I see one girl’s head bent in agony.
Although I can’t see her face and eyes, my daughter is holding a tissue in one white gloved hand. I think she is crying.
Every since I drove my wife and daughter to the airport, I’ve been alone with my thoughts—my emotions.
I didn’t know Faith as well as my wife and daughter did. My wife was with Michelle when they went to China to get Faith. My daughter spent six early years of her life in the same house with Faith and Michelle. As children, they grew up closest friends. As teens, they were separated by more than two thousand miles.
I read some of Faith’s words in the Chicago Tribune and heard her voice. “You ask me who my mother is, and I say Michelle Dremmer. She is my mother and will always be.” And Michelle says, “I didn’t save Faith. She saved me.”
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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline
I have never heard of China allowing children to be abandoned, or of the holes in the walls at orphanages. I always thought it was an “open secret” that these children were abandoned, something that was commonly known amongst the Chinese, but not shared with outsiders.
I wouldn’t say that China’s government approves of female children being abandoned. However, the drawers in the walls are a way to make sure children that are going to be abandoned stand a better chance to survive and are not tossed in a river for being a female, which is the customary way many rural familes deal with too many female children being born. Although China’s current laws make killing female babies illegal, it isn’t easy to change cultural habits that go back thousands of years. It takes time to bring about cultural changes.
In the meantime, that drawer comes in handy so the birth parent will not feal threatned and abandon the child in a field or kill the infant instead.
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