I try to avoid controversial topics here for several reasons. Today, though, I’m going to broach an issue that I’ve struggled with from time to time over the years. You may well disagree with what I say here, and of course, that’s fine and natural. I hope though, that no matter how vehemently you oppose my view, you will treat me with grace. Remember that I am only a human trying to muddle her way through this very sensitive issue. If you share your opposition via a comment, please disagree respectfully. Thank you so much!

In recent days, controversy regarding the infamous “red cups” has dominated social media; yesterday, the cups became unimportant in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris.

As different as the two events seem, as trivial as the first is in comparison to the other, a very definite, very troubling connection exists between the two. At least, it exists in my mind. 🙂

Early in the red cup discussion, I began seeing posts connecting that issue with the issue of fostering and adopting children. As best I could tell, the premise behind those comments, posted by those who are (and rightfully so) very passionate about fostering and adopting children in need of homes, goes along the lines of “why are we arguing about something as trivial as the color of coffee cups when there are desperately hurting children in need of our love and a home?”  That’s a good point and one I definitely agree with. Until Starbucks puts a truly offensive symbol or message (a swastika, for example) on their cups, I’m not going to get even slightly riled up.

The pro-fostering & adopting posts went further, though. They quickly went from “this is more important than red cups” to comments in which those who haven’t fostered or adopted were chastised — sometimes gently so, other times more strongly — for not fostering or adopting a child.

And that’s where, to me at least, the connection comes between the red cup controversy and the tragic events in Paris yesterday.

You see, when I was younger, I planned to foster children and eventually even adopt a child. I wanted children of my own (and was blessed with two), but I hoped that, God willing, to open my home to children in need of one.

When I shared my dream with my then-new husband, he was adamant that he would never foster or adopt a child. I was aghast that the man that I had known to be a loving, Christian man was so heartless. I tried to explain to him that he was wrong. But I finally closed my mouth, opened my ears, and listened to why he felt as he did.

Long story short, in the case of every fostering or adoption situation he was aware of (and granted, his experience was relatively limited), the foster/adoptive family had endured tremendous difficulty — physical, emotional, financial — as a result of taking in a child (or children in need). In all honesty, I had to admit that I could think of only a few situations, of the many I was aware of both in my extended family and as a teacher, that contradicted his experience.

I know my experience and that of my husband was limited — and mine still is. But in all honesty, I have to admit that I can think of only a few foster/adoptive families that have not experienced significant damage of some sort because they opened their homes and hearts. Yes, I know more than a few people who have faced similar issues with their biologically-born children, but by nowhere near the frequency or severity.

In fact, one woman in the small community my husband and I lived in for several years (the one he grew up in) was murdered in her kitchen by the 2 boys she and her husband had fostered and were in the process of adopting. The more I observed, the more I understood my husband’s concerns.

Yet, Jesus tells us to love our brother, to feed His sheep, to practice hospitality to the orphans and the needy. He also calls on me to follow Him and trust Him for all the rest. But the pragmatic side of me shuddered at the thought of exposing my children to the risk of true harm.

So what does that have to do with Paris? Many are now speculating (perhaps prematurely) that yesterday’s attack is a result of the influx of middle-Eastern refugees. That may prove to be true. And it raises a moral dilemma.

How do we, as compassionate human beings who care about their fellow man, balance that compassion with other issues such as physical safety, financial issues, etc?

How does a family, already struggling to make ends meet perhaps, add more children to the mix? Similarly, how does a country already under a heavy financial burden that comes from providing health care and a wide range of assistance to thousands, perhaps millions, of people already, take in hundreds of thousand, perhaps millions, more who will need those same services?

How does a couple that rightfully makes every effort to provide a physically and emotionally safe environment for their children bring in children that may well put their safety at risk? How does a government that has an obligation to protect the public welcome immigrants that pose a very real potential threat to the citizenry?

There are other considerations, of course. And it’s not a black-white, right-wrong issue. Far from it.

It’s an issue we grapple with all the time, even on a smaller, more daily scale. Bear with me for just one example.

You see a person by the side of the road, holding a sign saying they are homeless and have a wife and 5 hungry children. Do you stop? You lost your job and your husband’s hours have been cut; you’ve cancelled cable and other luxuries and are still living paycheck to paycheck. Do you give away money your family needs to someone who might be a scam artist? Do you roll down your window and expose yourself to the risk of violence? Doing so has result in injury and even death to some Good Samaritans.

I struggle daily with the balance between compassion and prudence on a personal level and in my job.

I don’t have the answers. Oh, how I wish I did.