Last month, when I wrote about the value and worth of four-year-old Sophia, I wasn't surprised that people were taken with her story. After all, the photos spoke for themselves. How could anyone not read her tale of initial neglect and starvation, to finally adoption and love, when there are before-and-after shots like these to illustrate?
As I scrolled through the comments, three themes quickly jumped out. The vast majority had nice things to say, like "Look what love can do! What a beautiful girl," and "Kudos to the adoptive parents."
The second group wasn't nearly as positive, just mad. Trust me, I understand the fierce protectiveness and righteous anger behind comments like "Whoever did this to this beautiful child should be taken out back and shot" and "When I got through with her abusers, they would look a lot worse than Sophia!" I found it incredibly ironic, however, that the same people who were fired up over the slow violence shown to Sophia wanted to solve the problem with a quicker version. But that issue is one for another blog post.
The last group of commenters fascinated—and bugged—me. "These photos are obviously digitally altered, because nobody could look like that and live." "I don't think this is the same child. The navels are totally different." "This isn't real." Trust me, I wish it weren't.
Those comments are easy to refute. When Lauren, Sophia's adoptive mom, traveled to Bulgaria to bring her home, she did so with a medical team, because no one was sure if this sweet, fragile ten-pounder could survive the trip. As soon as they hit the ground in Portland, Oregon, they headed straight to the hospital for an intense, multi-day regimen of nutrition therapy and overall medical rehab to stabilize her starved body. So her physical size and great need are quite simple to prove; it's all documented. Plus, I and many of my Reece's Rainbow buddies have met her and held her—doing so even inspired my friend Haley to adopt her own special needs child from Eastern Europe—and we can all say for sure that she really was that small!
So it wasn't people doubting the truthfulness of the story that bothered me. But I couldn't get those comments out of my head. I mentioned the "controversy" to Lauren, and her reply struck me:
"I kind of wish those looking for reasons to downplay this could have been the first one to change our sweet daughter's diapers last November."Because Sophia's tailbone and hips had no fat to cover them, they were poking straight out of her backside. She looked like a living skeleton, and in reality, that's exactly what she was.
Her orphanage caretakers saw her every day. But they, like many of us when confronted with abuse, reasoned that it wasn't that bad.
As humans, we're naturally drawn toward beauty, and repelled by ugliness. And what could be uglier than society's strongest murdering society's weakest, most innocent members, whether slowly through abuse or quickly through an abortionist's forceps?
Child abuse is ugly. Abortion is ugly. (If it weren't, why all the controversy, whether major or minor, every time photos of abused or aborted children are shown?) Humanity abused is flat-out, soul-crushingly repulsive.
So we either do something about it, like Lauren did, or we look the other way. We question the situation's veracity. Or we ignore the topic entirely, using polite terms like "choice" and "personal issue." After all, if we can't see it—if we insist that it can't really be that bad—then it's not real, right? Like the local Germans who lived directly outside WWII-era concentration camps yet didn't know its horrors until forced to see, we ignore what is happening in orphanages across the world, homes on our block, and Planned Parenthood offices in our town.
But it doesn't have to be this way. There are so many ways to look the ugly truth in the face and reflect beauty back instead. We can follow along and support families like the Hortons, who are currently adopting two more special-needs children. We can give to pro-life organizations like SPL. We can advocate for foster children, volunteer at pregnancy resource centers, educate our friends and family about the humanity of both the born and unborn, and support and empower women (and men!) in our spheres of influence who face an unplanned pregnancy.
For the sake of Sophia and the millions of nameless others like her—ignored, abused, and dismissed—we must resist the urge to downplay their pain, all so we can avoid feeling any ourselves. That tactic is great for our conscience, not-so-great for the babies. Just ask Sophia. Unlike preborn babies, at least she can answer.