Friday, September 23, 2011

Where It All Started

Children in orphanages.  Ever wonder where it all started?  Orphanages have not always been around.  In 18th century London, when a child was born to an unwed mother, or born with special needs, it was not as easy as simply dropping the child off at the nearest orphanage.  The options were far more limited:  find a monastery or church willing to take the child, find a relative able to raise the child, or abandon the child.  Babies lying in garbage piles and in sewage-filled gutters were common sights in the poorer neighborhoods of London. 

I was recently reading about a compassionate man named Thomas Coram who walked those London streets and saw the heartbreaking sight of abandoned babies and children all too often.  At a time when only one in four children lived to see their fifth year of life, when being an unwed mother or an illegitimate child was so shameful that it was sometimes deemed worthy of death, when babies’ lifeless bodies were left lying in rubbish heaps and the well-to-do would rather just keep walking rather than stop to notice, perhaps Thomas Coram could have simply accepted this as normal.  But this was a guy who actually cared. 

He decided to do something about it.  He advocated.  He fundraised.  He petitioned  the king.  In fact, he spent 19 years working to make his vision a reality.  Coram’s vision, the Foundling Hospital, first opened its doors in London, England, in 1741, and he became the founder of the world’s first-ever incorporated charity. 

On March 25, 1741, the day the Foundling Hospital first opened, thirty young mothers ventured forward to hand over their infant children.  They covered their faces in shame and sorrow and scurried away into the shadows as soon as they released their babies into the care of the hospital.  The hospital had to turn several mothers away that night.  They were already filled to capacity. 

Tens of thousands of children passed through the doors of the Foundling Hospital over the next two hundred years. 

No, orphanages have not always been around.  They were only established formally in the last three hundred years.  But since then, it sort of seems as though not too much has changed, has it?  There are still unwanted children.  There are still orphanages filled to capacity.  There are still mothers who give up their babies because they truly feel as though they have no other option.  And luckily, there are still kind, compassionate souls like Thomas Coram who are there for the children and who truly care about those little ones entrusted to their care. 

I am praying that somebody who cares is there for my sweet Gideon and for darling Edwin.  Somebody with some compassion.  Somebody who sees those little boys and sees their wonderfulness.  There are some who don’t care, and some who do.  That is just how it has always been.  Praying hard today that God will place somebody who cares in the path of my little loves.

No comments: