During Christmas vacation, my wife and I surprised our boys with an over night stay at a local in-door water park. We had a great time playing with the kids; something I regret I don’t do more of when I am at home. Somehow the responsibilities of home and adult life swallow me up while I am within the four walls that have a mortgage attached to them.
Time away gives me the chance to forget all that and enjoy these three people I see everyday and I cherish those times. This Christmas we spent time soaking wet for two straight days and I loved it.
In between chasing the boys through the water tree house and racing them on the many water slides, we found time to relax in the large hot tub. While sitting in the hot tub letting the warm water wash away the cold, I noticed a large family who ran in and out of the hot tub as the mother and father relaxed across from us. The family was white and among them was a very energetic little black girl. Immediately, bells went off in my head, “Hey a transracial family,” I thought.
Then I froze as the warm water swirled around me. I so wanted to strike up a conversation, share my experiences and ask them about their experiences, but I didn’t know how to start the conversation.
My mind shifted through my mental Rolla deck to find, “good opening lines to use with transracial families.” My mind stopped on the card labeled TRANSRACIAL FAMILY ICE BREAKERS, but the card was empty. I had been in this situation so many times before and choked every time. I had never found a good way to open the conversation. In the past I rationalized that the transracial family didn’t want me butting in to their business. Then I would just keep looking over at them hoping to give them the “I understand” look, which after a while I concluded looked more like me staring at them because I didn’t approve so now I couldn’t say anything. The ever-closing window of opportunity would slam and I would spend the rest of the day regretting I didn’t say anything.
In the hot tub, that same tape began to play.
“They don’t want you butting in.”
“That little girl might just be a friend they brought on vacation with them and you will look stupid.”
“Leave them alone!”
I started to listen, and then I decided to shut the tape off and approach the family. Now my issue was approaching this young mother whose husband had run off with the some of the other children. How do you approach a young woman in a hot tub without looking like some kind of hot tub troller? I weighed my options and decided the regret that I would feel the rest of the day just wasn’t worth the easy silence.
I floated over to the mother and pointed to the dark skinned girl climbing back in the hot tub and asked, “Is that your daughter?” The mother smiled brightly and busting with pride said kindly, “yes.”
I introduced myself and explained my story and sat there with the mother and shared stories for the next fifteen minutes. When the husband returned she introduced me to him and for some reason he looked familiar. Later during our continued conversation she would tell me her husband used to play for my favorite professional football team.
Inside, I was laughing uncontrollably. That was God rapping me on the head and saying, “Next time don’t be such a wimp, look what you almost missed out on because you were afraid to ask one simple question.”
God works hard to align our paths with others he wants us to meet. The path of this family was an interesting one prior to our meeting. This lived in Detroit where I grew up, moved to Pittsburgh, then moved to Utah and back to Pittsburgh. They were vacationing in Sandusky Ohio at the same time we were and it was no coinsidence. This was God’s way of saying, “I put you here for a reason, quit ignoring what I’m doing.”
I don’t like disagreeing with God but, I wasn’t ignoring what he was doing. I just wasn’t looking for it. Now I push back the blinders I once wore to see what other paths will intersect mine.
This week several transracial parents asked me how they could incorporate African American culture into their homes and I struggled with answering this difficult question. I am not sure buying a certain book, or hanging a certain picture or buying a doll will gain the results they are looking for. It is my belief the best way to exposure children to their culture or heritage is through people like them. I know some live in areas that are not as diverse as they would like and it is very hard to find people of color in these areas. But difficult doesn’t mean impossible and God doesn’t listen to difficult or impossible.
God didn’t bring this child to you and then forget about you. He didn’t give you this amazing gift and then leave you to struggle on your own. He is still working on intersecting paths at angles you will never expect.
I am sure my path has crossed over the path of someone who could have help me over and over again but I wasn’t looking for it. I stepped right over the lines like a crack in the sidewalk and kept walking. Now I go out everyday looking for transracial families anticipating that powerful intersection of our lives. I know it means I will have to be brave enough to speak to a total stranger to experience the benefits of this God-designed meeting.
I encourage you to be ready because your paths could cross anywhere; at the grocery store, the gas station, at work, at school, when you’re lost and looking for directions, or when your half naked in a hot tub.
Enter this week with your blinders off straining your eyes to see that supernatural connection and let me know who and what you find.
FOOT NOTE: I wrote the above post early Sunday morning. On Monday morning, I had to go my son’s school to put money on his lunch account because we forgot to send it with him when he boarded his bus. I parked in the school parking lot that is usually always full at that time of the day. I thought this was unusual but I wasn’t complaining I had work I needed to get done at home so I wanted this to be a quick trip. I turned off the car and looked straight ahead. Walking across the parking lot directly in front of me was a white man in a camouflage jacket holding the small hand of a black girl in pigtails.
At this point, God was laughing hysterically and my heart began to beat fast. The above post kept ringing in my head and I debated back and forth whether I should approach him or not. As I was having this private debate between my ears, the man walked his daughter into the elementary school and I once again rationalized that it wouldn’t be proper to follow him in the the elementary school sinceI was going to the middle school. Technically, our paths ran parallel and never intersected.
I continued to the middle school and went to the office to write a check. As I was writing a check, I heard the office door open and a male voice behind me greeted a light skinned black child who I notice when I came in. I turned to see who it was but I already knew. My eyes confirmed what my heart knew. The man in camouflage was behind me picking up his son from middle school to take him to the doctors office. God is now on his back with tears streaming down his face convulsing with laughter. I knew what I had to do.
As the father and son finished at the counter, I fumbled in my coat pretending to look for something but really just waiting so I could walk out with the two. I following them out and before the debate began again I asked the man if he also had a daughter in the elementary school. He says yes and I introduce myself. For the next ten minutes we exchanged transracial stories and we laughed about the responses of others around us regarding our colorful families. I give him my card with my blog site on it and we shake hands and separate.
This time the protest in my head didn’t last as long and I was fortunate God extended his path to intersect with mine. It does get easier.
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SUGGESTED READING: If you haven’t read the blogs on my search for my birth family yet check it out. It was a crazy ride.
GROWING UP BLACK IN WHITE- Memoirs of a transracial adoptee—Click on the title to go to the book site to sign up. Once the book is released you will get an email telling you how to get your copy.