Originally published on The Bardo Group blog
“All you need is a sense that there is no such thing as ‘no’ and everything is possible.” Moira Kelly
This shining face, this sweet spirit with reason to be bitter and yet he is not. He is a hero and pure inspiration. When Naomi Baltuck (Writing Between the Lines/Life from a Writer’s POV) posted this video on Facebook, I was as touched as anyone would be. I had to wonder though about his mom. What kind of hero is she, I thought, remembering the heroes of my childhood: Josephine Baker and my spiritual mother, Pearl Buck. Each of these women grew their families in unique – and extraordinarily unselfish – ways.
“All my life, I have maintained that the people of the world can learn to live together in peace if they are not brought up in prejudice.” Josephine Baker (1906-1975)
Josephine Baker was born in America but became a French citizen. She was a dancer, singer, actress and civil-rights activist. As a child living in St. Louis, Missouri, she suffered from discrimination, abandonment, and poverty. As an adult she had one miscarriage. She adopted twelve children, two girls and ten boys. They were from diverse races and cultures because, in addition to caring for them, she wanted to show that people can get along despite their different backgrounds. In the early ’80s two of her sons went into business together. They started Chez Josephine, which is on Theatre Row (42nd Street) in Manhattan. They dedicated the restaurant to their adoptive mom’s memory and decorated it with her memorabilia.
“. . . the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members.” Pearl Buck (1892-1973)
Pearl Buck was an American novelist, writer, humanitarian and the first woman to be awarded the Noble Prize in Literature (1938). She grew up in China and spent most of her life there until 1934. She had a deep affection for and knowledge of the countries of the East, not just China. She suffered through the Nanking Incident when the National Revolutionary Army captured Nanking (now Nanjing) in 1927. Many Westerners were killed, their homes destroyed, and their property stolen. Her only biological child, Carol, had phenylketonuria (PKU), which causes mental retardation and seizures. Pearl Buck adopted seven children. At a time when mixed-race children were considered unadoptable, Pearl Buck founded Welcome House, Inc., the first international, interracial adoption agency. At the time of this writing, Welcome House has placed some five thousand children since it was established 1949.
“The greatest act of kindness changes generations. Wherever there is the greatest evil, the greatest good can be achieved.” Moira Kelly (b. 1964)
This brings us to a contemporary hero: the mother of Emanuel Kelly, the young man in the video. Moira Kelly is an Australian humanitarian whose work has garnered her many awards and acknowledgements. When she was eight years old, after seeing a movie about then Blessed (now saint) Teresa of Calcutta (now Kolkata), Moira committed herself to working with disadvantaged children. She is the legal guardian of twins from Bangladesh, Trisha and Krishna. They are surgically separated but originally cranially conjoined twins. Moira Kelly also adopted the Iraqi-born Emmanuel and his brother Ahmet, both born with underdeveloped limbs. Among her efforts is Children First Foundation, formed to provide transportation and healthcare for children with urgent needs in developing countries.
These women are mothers in the best senses of that word. Their ideals are real and they stand by them. They have saved children from abandonment and loneliness, from poverty and hopelessness and from early death. They are goddess mothers and true heroes.
© 2013, essay, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; Photographs of Josephine Baker and Pearl Buck are in the U.S. Public Domain; I don’t know the origin or copyright of the photograph of Moira Kelly and her sons. If it is yours, let me know and I’ll credit you or take it down as you wish.
and to all mothers and the fathers, grandparents, siblings and others who
assume a mothering role for motherless children.