Monday, November 9, 2009

And Things Tumbled Into Place

And Things Tumbled Into Place...twenty years ago a little something came down in Berlin that changed the course of my family's life. That day I was busy with other things. New client advertising campaigns. 1990 marketing plans. A just over-two-year-old son with a head cold who had to be picked up from daycare. Icy roads. A pending birthday.

And into the ordinariness of that day dropped one of the five most significantly historical days (according to my reckoning) of my life. In Berlin, the wall came down -- over which were pointed the guns of my husband's secret missile site while we lived in Germany. The wall came down -- built as a retched split of the city and symbol of a defeated country. The wall came down -- that divided two clear sides of the cold war. The wall came down -- behind which lived millions of faceless, freedom-lacking people. That day the gates of freedom were thrown open and the wall came tumbling down.

I watched events unfold that night with awe – seeing something that I never thought I would see in my lifetime, so cold was the war, so frozen had been our attitudes. Although I didn't yet know it, the falling of the wall changed my life in a way I could not imagine. Not two years later my daughter was born in a tiny village on the western edge of Russia's Pskov Region and began her life of waiting in a country orphanage for a family. Only five years later in 1994 we would board a plane to bring her home to America. The realities I saw in that orphanage launched me into fifteen years of advocacy in children's issues, here at home and in the former Soviet bloc countries as a member of Families for Russian & Ukrainian Adoption.

A short fifteen years after the wall came down, that toddler with the cold boarded a plane to fly around the world to live for a year as a Rotary exchange student in Ukraine. He returned, with a different view of his world and a completely changed perspective on what he was going to do with his life. A few more years and mutual study at the University of St. Petersburg acquainted him with the woman who became his wife this past summer. Having now lived in four former Soviet countries, he speaks fluent Russian, some Armenian, Ukrainian and Georgian. As a Fulbright Scholar, he and his new bride now live in the Republic of Georgia. The tiny daughter has become a marvelous college freshman who can also speak Russian. My Russian? Not so good.

None of this would have happened if the gates had not been thrown open; had the walls not come down. An entire generation of children has grown up in a world that is a different place. New fears and uncertainties have replaced that iron curtain. There is truth, I think in this: that every wall built, represents failed policy. Every wall torn down represents new opportunity.

Today as the world celebrates what was in reality the end of the cold war it is important that we remember to listen to each other. Because while we do what we do, another generation of children will grow up.

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