The Adoption Series: Part 2 - Gratitude
On 10th December 1990, I arrived from an orphanage in India to my new Australian family. To mark the 30th anniversary of my adoption, I’ve written a series of three articles, each one covering a different concept of adoption. Authentic leadership is understanding where you’ve come from and where you’re going. I invite you on to this journey with me and hope it gives you food for thought on the paths you trod to get here, and the trails you’ll blaze as you move into tomorrow.
When you’re a kid, it feels like everything that you have - is expected. Because you don’t know anything different. You might know, at an intellectual level, that you started in poverty, but you don’t actually know what "poverty" means. So you don't really know.
It takes time to understand and project out the different realities that might have been your future if you had not been adopted.
The one is that you never get adopted, you stay, you work at the orphanage as a carer to all the other children, and pray and hope that they turn out luckier than you.
Or maybe you never make it that far - maybe instead you die, young, from some disease that's easily treatable in some well-off nation. But where you are - they don't know or they don't bother.
But I think the one that’s worse than death is to be married off (or put to work in an even worse place…) to the lowest common denominator. Because you have nothing, you can give nothing. And in a society where women were (and, in some places, are still), seen as inferior, all that you can think about is how terrible that situation would have been to have had no choice and no power, no resources and no assets, only price and no value. And perhaps that loveless, arranged marriage to someone in the lowest social class is a fate worse than death? A slavery - in its way, in its way.
And so it takes time to fully mature and understand the significance of the path that you did end up getting, to know that from a line up of hundreds of kids worldwide, you were the one that was picked out, photographed, had that photograph sent through the mail overseas to land on some family’s doorstep. And that family said: “Yes. That’s our child.”
To then board a giant plane, carried on the lap of a carer, to fly halfway across the world and arrive in the arms of complete and total strangers. But to: So. Much. Love.
What else is there but gratitude?
Putting expectations on the shelf in exchange for gratitude is one of the great hallmarks of authentic leadership. Because leadership requires risk and resilience to rise and lead. And without gratitude, any knock down or set back breeds bitterness instead. And who wants to look up to and follow someone who is bitter?
But a leader who instead appreciates every day, who is thankful for the people who surround them in their life, and stays hopeful for the possibility that we can learn from today to make tomorrow better... Well, isn't that a leader you want to follow?
The expectations of youth are no longer with you today because you finally do understand how hard the world is and how hard it could have been. And the full significance of those possible life paths are clear. It's different to the intellectual understanding of childhood. Because what it is, now, is a deep sense of gratitude. That you had the life that was different.
Lata Hamilton is the Founder & CEO of Passion Pioneers, an Executive Coach and Change Leadership Trainer. Sign up to her Change Inspiration mailing list here to get weekly goodies such as articles, templates, tools, videos and upcoming courses direct to your inbox. And look out for the third and final article in the Adoption Series next week.