So the "Joe Biden of India" was integral in our much-delayed journey back to New Delhi.
I'm not sure that's the most appropriate description but little-did-we-Americans-know that the man who took us under his wing would be a man of great importance in the national parliament of India.
We must've looked like lost puppies. We sort of were.
By the end of night, this senior politician was pushing our luggage -- at the same time when his handlers were pushing his luggage. Incredible.
In hindsight (and after some Wikipedia snooping this morning): we are humbled by his generosity.
That's who helped us navigate our much-delayed and out-of-control journey --- but let me set the stage for how we connected with this sweet man.
After a 1 hour drive to the Mangalore airport, we arrived, but getting checked-in and boarding passes are a bit different in the Indian airport system. Different enough that we were a little helpless until two Indian businessmen took interest in our family and walked us through everything.
They were our temporary guides. We needed them and enjoyed a lot of conversation in the queue.
The planned flight scenario was this: one flight to Mumbai, a 40 minute layover, then a connecting flight to Delhi, then a driver to our hotel.
It's only simple if everything stayed on time. But it was slipping out of our control. Our temporary businessmen-turned-guides told us not to worry.
It's hard "not to worry" when everything is on a timeline. But we were in a foreign environment, with only enough info to get us to the airport, with all of our kids and luggage. And. Imagine how Hope is feeling: she literally has no way of knowing what the original plan was. Let alone a delayed plan.
But she kept smiling.
After being delayed about 2.5 hours, our flight began boarding in Mangalore. By then, we assumed we were missing our connecting flight. And a little despair set in. The promise of a long night's sleep was drifting away.
On the bus to the plane, our businessmen friends introduced us to a smiling and kind faced man.
"This is our minister. He's a great man. He is also traveling to Delhi."
So we're still dense Americans. When words that are spoken to us from our Indian friends, we can understand them.
But sometimes we don't know what they mean.
chemist = pharmacist
washroom = bathroom
coffee = no-taste-dark-water (I can't wait for a good cup of coffee).
But when we heard "minister", we thought "church minister".
So we smiled and greeted him. He mentioned he'd be in business-class seating but also said:
"I will take care of you."
We had no idea how much this would be true.
Let me just pause the story and say:
So much of our trip so far has been marked with the people of India saying or showing: "I will take care of you"
In some way, we all desperately need to be taken care of. It's deep. We like to play up our independence, but we're fools if we say we can do this without others.
Not to make this political, but our home country's political atmosphere seems to say that we don't need others. I wholly reject that kind of thinking.
Today at lunch, we were the only westerners in the restaurant. But staff of all types cared for us in such generous ways. They taught these new parents how to eat a dosa so we could give it to Hope (we heard that dosas were a favorite food of hers--- but didn't know the proper way to eat it). They helped us connect some missing parts to just nourish Hope.
Would that be the same in our country if a foreign family were sitting by themselves at a Ruby Tuesday's?
Today when waiting for an elevator, we spoke with 3 Muslim women who were visiting India from Canada. We told them what we're here for (adoption) and within 20 seconds of meeting all of us were in tears. Hugging. In an elevator. Strangers. All of us weeping in joy. The one woman kept saying how wonderful it was to witness a new family starting.
Have you hugged a Muslim in an elevator recently? (Ok. That's a weird question). But I'm overwhelmed by how connected she felt with us in less than a minute.
We all need each other. Connected.
The more we reject others, the less we become like who we're meant to be.
It is hard to describe the vast number of people who are a part of this journey.
Some teach us what a dosa is.
Some connect with us across faiths.
Some help us through the traveling in a foreign country....
(Back to the story)
After our quick flight to Mumbai, we landed and wondered where or what we would have to do. We know God was with us -- but didn't know how he would be.
As we lugged backpacked bodies through the narrow 737 aisle and deplaned, the airline representatives gave us new boarding passes on the later flight to Delhi.
But next to the representatives stood the smiling and kind-faced "minister": patiently waiting for us.
"Come. Let's walk together. We are on the same next flight together," he smiled.
So. The five of us walked together with the "minister" -- not really knowing where we were going but just trusting.
As we walked, person after person greeted this man with a lot of respect and deference. It became increasingly clear that he was a person of significance.
We told him a bit of our story, and he shared with us that he was a member of parliament (duh Wellivers, minister = parliamentary figure). He had been involved in government here since the early 80s and was flying to Delhi for an important meeting the next day.
All the while, he'd pause to shake hands with every person who recognized him. Smiling. Kind-faced. Gentle.
Turn after turn, we ended up at another security checkpoint.
He had the express lane and asked if we could use it. Unfortunately, we weren't dignified enough to use it, but he patiently waited for us on the other side. And made his handlers wait as well.
Finally we reached our next gate in the Mumbai airport (which is beautiful, by the way. We're becoming airport experts and this was by far the nicest we've seen).
We sat together. With our new friend. Until the next flight left.
As we sat, I had a chance to ask him what the next big thing his country's government was going to be facing. He carefully outlined his concerns for his people as we ate personal pan pizzas from an airport Pizza Hut.
It was sorta special. Getting to know this man, his heart for his country, and sharing our story, and our heart for one special girl from his country.
He said to us: thank you for taking one of our own.
We boarded our final flight to Delhi.
He sat in business class, we shook hands, and said thank you profusely. I assumed we'd not cross paths again.
Our rebooked tickets were literally in the back of the plane. So after we landed in Delhi, we were the last ones off.
But, there again, our parliamentary minister was there to greet us and walk with us to the baggage belt.
When you're on your own, the more times you see a familiar face, it starts to feel like family and home. This man was becoming our surrogate family for us.
He helped push our luggage -- while his handlers pushed his. He watched over the luggage while we all took a toilet break. He came with us to the place where hotels pick up their guests. When we didn't find our name, his assistant who had arrived to care for the minister spoke to our hotel because we were flummoxed on what to do.
Delhi is incredibly busy. But when you have a surrogate family it felt calm.
Finally, the driver arrived. And we were on our way to the hotel.
So this very long story was not so much about Hope.
But it was about the people who get us Hope.
That day started with strangers helping us at one airport, and ended with another stranger who is a high-ranking and respected senior leader of India helping us get home.
People of all kinds.
The honorable Oscar Fernandes served us. Though he has every right to be served.
He showed us the true meaning of generosity and instant family -- to our 1-day-old family of five.
He laid down his needs, for the sake of our needs.
He put the interests of others, above his own.
He used all of his resources to help us.
He even invited us to lunch and a visit to the parliament.
We are totally grateful. And all the while, a little clueless to the significance of this meeting.
I want to live out this adoption story with the same spirit that all of our helpers have: fully open and generous.
When we live closed and selfish, we miss out on so much.
At every step in this journey, we are confident that while it may be one family who has Hope -- our definition of "family" is changing.
Like I said before, sometimes we understand a word....but don't know what it means.
"Family" = "All of us. Together."