“What is the opposite of prejudice?” he asked.
Dr. Krish Kandiah was speaking at a leadership conference when he delivered this statement that has snagged in my mind ever since:
“I think the opposite of prejudice is hospitality. Prejudice sees problems, hospitality sees people.”
Dr. Kandiah is an advocate for fostering and adoption, and the founding director of Home for Good, a charity in the UK that seeks to find permanent loving homes for children in the UK foster system.
“My job is to help people see treasure and not trouble,” he explained.
Prejudice sees problems. Hospitality sees people.
We live in an increasingly problem-averse culture. We avoid pain and trouble and conflict and offence and hardship and any other unpleasantness like we might actually be able to sail through life without them. Of course, these are the very things that strengthen us, that propel us to greater heights. Yet still, we tip-toe around the slightest whiff of inconvenience.
Prejudice looks into the eyes of a child who has only known love as delivered from drug addict parents and sees: PROBLEM child.
Hospitality looks into the eyes of the same child and sees: PRECIOUS child.
I wonder if it is our problem-averse culture that sees such devastatingly high numbers of children living in outside-of-home care while many of us swim in excess (of wealth, spare bedrooms, time and even heart space)?
Why are there more than 40,000 children in foster care at any given time in Australia, yet in the 2017-18 year, just 330 adoptions were finalised?
These are some of the questions that dawn with World Adoption Day on November 9 each year.
A quick look at the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare website reveals that the number of adoptions per year in Australia has declined by 57% since 1993. There were 330 adoptions finalised in the 2017-18 year compared with 764 in the 1993-94 year.
Of the 330 finalised adoptions, 80% (265) were within Australia. Of these, the majority (233) were “known” adoptions. That is, children adopted to known family or foster carers.
Of course, there are always concerns raised with the ease and timeliness of processes. It takes as much as 35 months to process an adoption these days. But there are always more children than foster carers.
Are we caring enough?
It struck me that hospitality means so much more than providing a meal for friends. Hospitality has the potential to absolutely shake a culture from its apathetic reverie. Here’s a definition of hospitality based on Dr. Kandiah’s insights that brings a mighty challenge to bestow value on every person who crosses our paths:
Hospitality: to use our resources to affirm the value and worth inherent in every person, whatever their circumstances, location, behaviour and abilities.
What do you think? Of course, this radical kind of hospitality has life-changing (life-saving!) implications. It requires us to put the needs of the vulnerable ahead of our own – even ahead of our own tendency to sidestep “trouble” and “problems”.
Is adoption a solution to abortion?
Whenever adoption is raised as a consideration for a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy, the argument of body autonomy is raised. “Why should a woman be used as a human incubator to preserve the life of an unwanted child?” And so the vernacular of prejudice begins. Remember, prejudice sees problems: the problems of the impact of pregnancy on her body, the impact on her lifestyle and career, the impact on her plans and relationships.
But let’s look at the antithesis of prejudice. Let’s look at how radical hospitality would handle the same situation.
Hospitality sees humanity: the woman and the unborn child. Both innately precious, both worthy of love and respect. Hospitality meets the needs of both; it empowers the woman to walk through a difficult season for the sake of another life already begun. In arguably the greatest act of hospitality, a mother allows her body its natural process of expanding and accommodating new life. Yes, even if she feels herself unable to continue parenting after delivery.
Adoption is a great kindness in many such situations: to mother and child. It provides a way forward without diminishing the value of either life.
Even the AIHW acknowledges that abortion comes into play when looking at the low rate of adoption in Australia:
“A range of factors contribute to changes in the number of children adopted in Australia. Social trends, such as declining fertility rates, the wider availability of effective birth control, increased support for single parents, and the emergence of family planning centres, are likely to influence the number of Australian children (local and known child) in need of adoption.”
Prejudice looks into the eyes of a woman crippled by fear as she comes to terms with an altered life and sees: PROBLEM pregnancy.
Hospitality looks into the eyes of the same woman and sees: PRECIOUS woman and child.
What does hospitality look like for you?
I’m not sure about you, but I found hospitality to be a word that sat easily with me. It’s a word that I can do. “I can be hospitable!” I thought as I listened to Dr. Kandiah that day. I can do hospitality.
So often, the magnitude of cultural issues like abortion mute and hobble us. But when we present action as a simple act of service embodied in that word ‘hospitality’, suddenly it’s infinitely more achievable.
What does hospitality look like for you? Have you considered adoption or foster care? Are you able to reach out to people in your community who are facing unplanned pregnancy?
This World Adoption Day, perhaps you will consider that we are one great big family, and there are fellow family members out there who need reminding that there is treasure where many only see trouble. We can all adopt that attitude.