Tropico Perspective: Giving ourselves a present

We spent New Year's Eve two years ago in Dubai en route to Ethiopia to meet our son for the first time. Thanksgiving this year was a grilled turkey sandwich in the Dubai airport making the same trek, this time to pick up our little girl. While not the most typical of celebrations, these particular holidays are now part of a much larger story.

Whenever our adoption comes up in conversation, which usually begins with "what did you do for the holidays?" I am always intrigued by where it leads. People will see us a little differently, often in a positive light, but how they see themselves changes a little too. This is because for many people, they begin to wonder if this is something that they could do.

The short answer is "yes," but nothing says you have to.

How anyone comes to the decision to put their family together is different, including not doing it at all. One of the things you learn from this process is you can't judge the decisions anyone makes. But I can tell you that the process isn't any more difficult than having a baby the old-fashioned way.

Which is why I have found the declaration that this is something extraordinary, something that they could never do, to be the most interesting. While bringing a child into your home is a pretty miraculous thing, it isn't as difficult as learning a language, or getting a home loan in this down market.

There were perhaps nine families with us on this trip, and we were remarkable in how average we are. Some had never had a passport before, while others were world travelers. Some were young and starting their families through adoption, and others were building an international soccer team.

With the possible exception of the new parent of an overly active 3-year-old boy, I think we are all doing pretty well. Having been there myself, I know that she will be just fine — in a couple of years.

There are few families that can simply write a check to get this process going, yet many have saved, begged, borrowed and stolen to get here. What you would see in the living room of the care center, though, is just a group a parents playing with their kids. Ordinary people can do extraordinary things in pursuit of the simple human act of building a family.

What is abundantly clear, though, is the joy that these kids bring to us. Whatever sacrifices we make pale in comparison to what we get in return. It is this return on investment, the one that can't really be measured in dollars, that has changed the way that I look at things.

When we tell ourselves that we can't do something that we know is right because we have convinced ourselves that we can't do it, that it's too difficult or, worse yet, we have allowed someone to convince us that doing the right thing isn't right at all, we abandon that thing that is supposed to make us human.

In the simplest terms, allowing a child to go hungry, no matter where they live, is fundamentally wrong. Allowing someone to die because they can't afford a liver transplant is fundamentally immoral. Letting 70% of children in an inner-city high school fail to graduate while a similar number of suburban kids go on to college in intrinsically unjust.

We can do all of these things simply by choosing, or perhaps remembering, to value the way we feel when the society we have created actively works for the common good.

If an outwardly unremarkable family can travel halfway across the globe with money raised by selling T-shirts on the Internet to provide a home for a child abandoned by the side of a river, it isn't because they are particularly heroic. It is, at its most simple level, the right thing to do.

We can all feel that way if we allow ourselves to make that choice, and I have to say it feels pretty good.

MICHAEL TEAHAN lives in the Adams Hill area of Glendale with a clear view of the Verdugo Mountains so he can keep an eye on things. He can be reached at michaelteahan@

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