I was sitting in my office at Camp Greaves, near the demilitarized zone (referred to as the “DMZ”) in South Korea. I received a telephone call from the Base Commander asking me to come to his office. That didn’t happen very often – but - when the Base Commander calls, you go. When I arrived, the Commander introduced me to a Korean-American “Major” – a military officer who was already in his office. My Commander invited me to sit down and tell the Officer about my story of adopting and how I was now trying to adopt another child. Although I thought it was a little odd to be asked to tell my story to a total stranger, I thought why not? After all, when you are trying to adopt a child, you tell everyone you meet about it. It’s just what you do when adopting a child, at least for me it was. When I was in that mode, it was an all-consuming passion and permeated everything I did 100% of the time. Besides, when the Base Commander invites you to his office to tell your story, you do it.
So I sit down and proceed to tell this very nice Major about adopting my first daughter as a single Mom, my daughter’s story, what I had to go through to convince the adoption agency to let me adopt her, how I decided I wanted another daughter, my challenges doing all of it as a single Mom, my support network of family and friends, and so on. I think we talked for maybe an hour. The Major asked a few questions as we talked but mostly just listened. I wasn’t sure why but somehow I felt like this conversation was important. After we talked, they both thanked me for sharing and I left to return to my office.
I later found out this Major had family connections to the Korean Blue House (a term, at that time, referring to the equivalent of the Korean Congress or the Country’s government – similar to our “White House” or U.S. Congress in Washington D.C.).
Perhaps two weeks later I received a telephone call from the Korean adoption agency from which I had already adopted my first daughter, asking me to come to their office as soon as possible. Of course, I went immediately. When I arrive at the Adoption agency office, my dear friend by that time, Mr. Kim, greets me immediately with a letter in his hand at the same time while shaking his head. He leans over and says quietly “I don’t know how you did this, I don’t know how you did this but we got this letter.” I had no idea to what he was referring. He quickly explains that he had received a letter from the Blue House giving me an exception to the Korean law prohibiting single parents from adopting. I could now have my second daughter. I started crying. I knew why and I knew who was responsible for this impossible letter being written in my behalf and I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I was crying tears of joy and release.
While I was still grasping the concept that I was about to get my next daughter, Mr. Kim starting telling me about a child that had just come to them from the southern part of Korea. She hadn’t been fully checked out yet, was only a few days old, and thought to maybe have a rash, or maybe infection. I looked at him in disbelief not sure I was hearing him correctly it was happening so fast.
I asked if she was here now. He said yes – in the back baby nursery – someplace I had not been allowed to ever go. That’s the place where children were located during “intake” and before they went out to their Korean foster parents while waiting for adoption. I asked if I could go there. I think I was rather insistent as Mr. Kim looked at me, shrugged, and somehow knew I was not leaving until I saw her. (I wanted her before she went into the Korean foster care system with a Korean family.)
He took me to the back building where I saw a maze of small wooden cribs, all of which seemed to be in need of paint. There were several Korean women in the rooms, very busy and apparently attending to all the children.
There was Sara. So small. So quiet…sleeping. I couldn’t pick her up or even touch her. But I knew I wanted her and she was mine. I asked when I could have her. They said the next day. They had to do the paperwork – both for the baby and for me to adopt her. But she was mine. I cried some more.
Her name was Choi Seon Kyeong – Choi being her family name like Keller. In Korean culture, your name is stated by saying your last name first. I had to decide what I would call her. Since I feel strongly about my children keeping their birth name in some form as a way of honoring their birth family and birth heritage, I knew I wanted to incorporate her birth name into her legalized name after adoption. What was a name that went with Choi Seon Kyeong? That name seemed so complicated and challenging at the time – but still important to keep. I decided on Sara. A simple, easy word with only four letters – a stark contrast from her birth name. I decided to keep her entire Korean birth name – hyphenating it as her middle name (so she would only have one middle initial – S). I named my second daughter Sara Seon-Kyeong-Choi Keller – putting her family name of Choi in the naming order as Americans do for ease in understanding as she grew. I liked it. It was unique and different but felt strong and purposeful – something I somehow knew she would grow into through the years.
I left the Agency and went shopping. I needed stuff – for a newborn baby. I needed it fast as I was bringing home my new little daughter the next day (they could finish the paperwork as we went along but I wanted my daughter with me). I had to get my house ready. I had to talk to my boss (who was so very excited for me). I took off work for two weeks.
The next day Meera Lee (my first daughter) and I went back to the Adoption agency and picked up Sara. Afterward, we went directly to the PX (Post Exchange) on base there in Seoul. I still needed stuff and frankly, I was so excited I wanted to show Sara off to the whole world. Because basically, by that time, it seemed like the whole world knew I was trying to adopt a second child. The Army Base where I worked was filled with a wonderful group of people – both active duty and civilians with civilians being both Korean and American. Kind of like living in a small town where everybody knows everybody - and of course their business. So lots of people knew I was trying to adopt another child. They knew how important that was to me. My passion was evident.
Passion manifests itself differently for different people. For some, it is an all-consuming idea that takes over your life. For some, it grows slowly and kind of creeps up on you. For others, it may be felt, but in conjunction with other things in your life that are also important and probably somewhere or somehow connected. Maybe it is a seed that is patiently watered throughout your life by your experiences or encounters with others who help and support you along the way. It may depend on which self-help or inspirational book you read. You are lucky if you are passionate and even luckier if you find and realize your passion. Many do not – although they may look for it their entire life. However it comes and goes, however, it is revealed or discovered…or not…is okay.
The thing about having a passion is that it often leads to having more passions. Mine did. Adopting my daughters…having a life-long love of animals…traveling… adventure…orangutans…see the connection? It became obvious to me what I was going to do. I HAD to go visit the orangutans and see where they lived. I HAD to…it became consuming to me. I wanted to share that with my daughters (even though the youngest was only 4 years old at the time.) Orangutans came into my life – the lives of my daughters and soon everyone around me knew I had this “thing” about orangutans.
That passion…that purpose I felt when adopting my daughters (including my third daughter from China) became evident again when I began to learn about orangutans. I had always been passionate about animals…rescuing the ones who I found abandoned, wanting to care for the ones I found hurt, convincing my parents we needed to feed the ones who magically showed up at our house (admitting nothing about luring them there through one trick or another). I felt a call to learn about orangutans. Passions are like that sometimes. You just know – that it is there. You don’t necessarily know why or how it got there…just that it is there.
Are you exploring your passion, developing your passion, finding out if something even really IS your passion? Come talk to me. Exploring inspires ideas. Ideas create opportunities. Opportunities can lead to adventures…which connect you right back to your passion. Funny how that works. Just go with it. It’s your choice. You decide.
Inspire, Create, Connect!