Adversity. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines adversity as a state or instance of serious or continued difficulty or misfortune. Adversity is something we all must face at one point in our lives or another. Some people face it continuously and others from time to time. No one is immune from it. Adversity, at face value, appears to be a negative and bad thing. Serious and continued difficulty or misfortune is not something anyone would immediately associate happy thoughts with. However, with adversity come triumph, success, courage and strength. Some of the strongest, most well-known individuals in this world had to overcome mountains of adversity to get to the places they arrived at. If adversity had been taken away from their equations one could say, almost without doubt, that their arrival to these places most likely would not have occurred. It is because of their difficulties and misfortunes that they found, inside themselves, the perseverance to trek on. To never give up. It is because of their difficulties and misfortunes that they learned. They learned what it was like to go without, so they are more giving. They learned what it was like for their voices to be silenced, so they give platform to others who have no voice. They know what it is like to be the underdog, so they root for those who seemingly have no chance in the world. Adversity has shaped a good number of people in this world, for the better. Our world is a better place because of these people so, indirectly, because of adversity.
Adversity doesn’t always make people better. Some people face adversity and the exact opposite happens. It makes them harder, colder. It makes them give up and not try. In these cases, to me, it is sad to see the people that they could have been if they would have been able to find the strength to fight back through adversity. Sometimes all it would have taken was a good support system. Someone to tell them they could do it! They will survive! They will do great things!
Let’s take a look at some of the people in this world who faced the greatest difficulties and misfortunes imaginable and became who they did because of it. This list is not all-encompassing. The measure of success is also not limited to well-known people. Perhaps you know someone in your life that has faced the greatest of challenges and managed to come out on top. While certainly not famous, they put meaning and hope into your life and the lives of those around them. I would love to hear about these “unsung heroes” in your life and welcome comments here to tell their stories.
The first person who pops into my mind, and the one who inspired this blog post, is Oprah Winfrey. Oprah Winfrey’s childhood was traumatic, to say the least. She suffered from physical and sexual abuse. She grew up dirt poor and had nothing. However, Oprah rose above her childhood (and I believe it is because of the strength she found to rise above it) and we all know the path her story has led her on.
J.K. Rowling was living on welfare before she started to write the Harry Potter series of books. She relied heavily on the UK government to provide her housing, food, medical care, etc. However, she never gave up and found a perseverance within herself, thanks to the adversities she faced, to become a best-selling author. Who doesn’t know the name “Harry Potter?”
Eleanor Roosevelt was orphaned by the time she was a pre-teen. Her mother had passed away and her father, an alcoholic, was sent to the crazy house. Eleanor then went to live with her grandparents and was sent to school in London at age 15 to finish her education. Soon after she became involved in local politics, where she thrived. I’m sure you all know the rest of this success story.
Jim Carey dropped out of high school to get a job and support his family. He was 15 years old at the time and they were living out of a van when his father became unemployed. The adversity he faced in his childhood made him persevere and never give up. With his father driving him to comedy clubs, Carey pursued his dreams. And the rest is history.
Benjamin Franklin only attended school until he was 10 years old because that is all that his parents could afford. The desire to learn, however, did not go away because of his family’s financial situation. Benjamin Franklin read everything he could get his hands on and became an autodidact – a self-taught person. Benjamin Franklin became an inventor and one of the founding fathers of the United States of America.
These people did not become successful in spite of their challenges. They became the people they are today because of the challenges they faced. What pushed them to keep going and not give up? What made them persevere through some of the most horrifying challenges presented to them? What gave them the strength to face anything head on and overcome it? Adversity. The blessing and the curse of adversity.
I often hear how mothers surrendered children to adoption to spare them the challenges that remaining in their original family would present. These were the same reasons I felt adoption was a good choice for my daughter. To spare her from the financial adversity that remaining in our family would give to her. “A better life” is touted (even though that is no guarantee) and the birthmother is praised by all of those around her for “thinking of her child first and giving him/her a chance at a good life.” I take up two issues with this line of thinking. The first is a question. If these mothers made the brave, wise, and selfless choice to save their child from adversity through their choice of adoption, what does that mean about the mothers who do not choose to “save” their child from the adversities that are likely to present in their lives through parenting? Does that mean that these mothers are the opposite of brave, selfless and wise? Are they weak, selfish and ignorant? Because this is the message that I’m getting. The second issue I have is the fact that these children are being robbed of their adversity. The very thing that made all of the above mentioned people who they are today. By removing the likelihood of adversity, you are removing the potential for greatness.
I am not saying that no one can achieve greatness without adversity. Nor am I saying that children should stay in homes where abuse and neglect are present. I am not saying these things at all. However, the main reason that women surrender children to domestic infant adoption is because of the financial challenges present in their lives. And financial challenges, as you have read above, create some of the most challenging events in the lives of children and families. But they also present opportunity for growth, wisdom, learning, compassion, empathy, love, GREATNESS.
Why is the adoption industry, and everyone else that knows someone who has surrendered a child for adoption, congratulating the birthmother for giving their child the “gift” of greatness? How do they know that child would not be great, or greater, if they had remained in their original family? Why are we selling the dream of a beautiful, great, life for a child via adoption when it is just as possible, and in some case MORE possible, for a child to indeed become something truly great having lived and learned the lessons that came with staying in the family they were born into? Should Jim Carey have been taken by state authorities and placed into an adoptive home because his family fell on hard financial times? Should Oprah Winfrey had been given up for adoption at her birth because her family could not give her the “opportunities” that an adoptive family would have? Should Benjamin Franklin have been placed for adoption because his family couldn’t afford even an education for him (would we have free public education today had he not experienced this)? Should J.K. Rowling have given her daughter up for adoption when faced with the welfare life? Take all of these instances and put them in today’s perspective. In today’s adoption-centered world. Where every child born to the circumstances stated above should be deserving of a well-respected, financially “stable” adoptive family. Their legacies would have been snuffed out and who knows what the loss of their impact on the world would have been.
And where do we draw the line? Should we just start deciding that only families that have the immediate financial resources to raise a child are deserving of that child? When will it become that newborns are seized after birth because their natural families are not “deserving” of them because of the adversities they face? You may laugh, but its a slippery slope. In today’s world, Jim Carey would most definitely had been taken into CPS custody for dropping out of school and getting a job to help support his family.
Remember when I asked you to share stories about people you know who are stronger because of the adversity they faced in the comments? How about my children? The ones I parented through some of the most challenging adversities of all? They are not yet grown but I see the spirit of greatness in them. I see the empathy, goodness, and love they radiate for those less fortunate, for those that are different, for those with disabilities, for those that face adversities of their own. It is because of their experiences with adversity in their lives that their views have been shaped. They know what it is to go without, so they give. They have empathy. They are my heroes. And I know that greatness awaits them. Thank you adversity.