Sunday, April 27, 2014

To Dance For a Father

David and Kathi Peters are two wonderful people whom we have come to love over the past year and a half.  You may remember that they are working on a documentary about Chinese adoption and that our family will be part of that story.  They came out to Utah just prior to our trip to adopt Cali in 2012.  David was with us in Xi'an when we adopted Cali.  And David happened to be in Xi'an this past week when we went back to visit Cali's biological Grandma and aunt.  Besides making this documentary, they have been involved in the efforts of findMe International in making short film clips to share stories of kids in China who are waiting for families.  

With David's permission, I am re-posting something he wrote that pulled tremendously at my heartstrings as the father of many little girls:

To Dance for a Father

As little girls, my daughters loved to dance. To twirl, to curtsy, to giggle, to flirt. I remember looking on with a heart full of joy and amusement, a gaze I was sure warmed their hearts. They danced for their father. One they already had, one whose love would never waver, one whose heart they had won forever.

But imagine for a moment a young girl dancing for her father. But this time for one she didn’t know. One whose loving glance had never warmed her world, but one whose heart she just might have a chance to steal.

Let me tell you what happened yesterday. I was at the Xi’an orphanage creating short videos for findMe international to use as they advocate for older children about to age out of adoption. The sad truth is that once orphaned children reach age 14, they default to a massive subgroup called “third culture” Chinese. Invisible Children with no parents, no real family, just friends. I try to avoid thinking about birthdays, graduations and weddings for these young people.

Now a lot has changed in China and orphanages have come a long way by providing loving caregivers to raise these precious ones. But somehow it just can’t be the same as having your own family, I would imagine.

My job was to film interviews of each of the nine children brought to me by the adoption services director in hopes that through these video clips and the work of my friend Mike at findMe international, they will find families. 

Mixed emotions distract me as I unpack my gear. How is it that we live in a world where children need to “audition” for a family?

Reality show fans are very familiar with auditions. Young American Idol hopefuls do it for fame. Today, these children are doing it for families.

High stakes, if you ask me. Too high!

Early on in the filming a striking 12-year-old girl bravely stepped forward for her turn. Sheena, as I call her, was now granted the opportunity to make her “appearance.” You see, she knows that for kids like her there is a file folder tucked away in an office somewhere that bears her name and number. It contains a government style mug shot and a writeup that reads more like a tech journal than the story she wants the world to hear. 

But now she stands in front of my camera - her window to the world just opened. 

“Will anyone notice?”

Before I continue, let me explain why I call her Sheena. First it’s because her Chinese name is hard to spell and nearly impossible to say. Second, it just seems to fit. The sheen from her hair, her eyes and her heart captured mine. Also, you should know that Sheena is profoundly deaf. Hearing aids allow her somewhat of a normal life. But for some reason she didn’t have batteries for her devices today. An unwelcome quiet, I would imagine.

As the adoption services director asked her questions, she dutifully spoke and signed her answers. The grace and flow of her signing was beautiful, but still somehow I didn’t feel her “audition” was going so well. And I guess that makes sense. What person on the planet is optimized for these circumstances? 

But finally, our laundry list of questions led us to something…She could dance. 

I would imagine, for a 12-year-old orphan girl, escaping into the art of movement provided her oft’ needed solace. This made her unique, desirable…or so she may hope.

As a visual arts kind of guy, I immediately posed the question, “Will she dance for me?”

There was no hesitation. “Yes.” Her shyness held no sway over the dance within her. Earlier I had admired a nearby pond that was graced with a rather large rock formation jutting well into the air. Water was spraying forth in abstract patterns and directions. It cooled the air as well as providing a flowing rhythm of water drops dancing.

Right in front was an open area perfect for her “stage.”

I took my position and readied the camera. She walked confidently toward the pond and with her back toward me, struck her pose.

The “music” began. 

No, it wasn't from amps and loud speakers -- sounds she couldn't hear today anyway. It was music of a different sort, the soulful tune of a little girl dancing to win a father’s heart.

Music to my ears.

I wish I could read her mind. “How should I dance for my father? Do I smile? Do I give a girlish flirt? Do I swing my ponytail just so? Do I set aside my practiced routine and let the rhythm of my heart take over? I’m not sure. I just hope that he notices. I wonder what it’s like to have a father. To have him with pure hearted eyes gazing at my flowing movements, his thoughts filled with delight as he wishes for the best in the world to be my own.”

My daughters danced for me because of a love they knew. She danced for me for a love yet to be known.

As I jot down these thoughts, I’m aboard a shuttle heading to the Xi’an airport. I can’t seem to get Sheena -- or all the kids, for that matter -- out of my mind. Somehow I’m thinking there’s a father out there who will someday ride this same shuttle with this dancing girl beside him.

There sure seems to be plenty of open seats.

by David Peters

3 comments:

  1. I cannot WAIT to see that movie! What beautiful thoughts! He's right about the idea of "auditioning" for a family.

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  2. Please tell your friend David that he captured something in that essay that only a father of little girls could fully appreciate. Thank him for allowing you to share it with us. And tonight, as I pray by my bed, my heart will swell with gratitude for my own little girls, and my prayers will go up on behalf of a hopeful, little girl I have never met but for whom I have the most profound compassion--a little girl named Sheena, "dancing to win a father's heart."

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