Can you imagine a life without the guidance, protection and care of your parents? Can you imagine a life that begins and ends on the street? What would it be like? When and how would you eat? How would you earn? What clothes would you wear? Where would you sleep? The questions are inexhaustible.

Interestingly, fiction offers numerous tales that centre around orphans, but few, if any, reflect on the ominous consequences of real world victims.

Since the life of an orphan is devoid of parental care – a primary influence growing up – the uncertainty around an orphan’s ability to navigate life creates room for a storyteller to fully explore the frontiers of adventure. In effect, the author’s playground is less complex yet vast and filled with endless possibilities. All this makes the character of an orphan an exceptional tool in the art of storytelling.

When we read stories or watch movies based on orphans like Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Harry Potter; Violet, Klaus and Sunny (from a series of unfortunate events); we learn that exceptional circumstances, beyond the prosaic monotony of a structured life, will most likely lead to an exceptional life that will be more adventurous than vulnerable, tragic or uncertain.

Unfortunately, the reality is bitter and to the contrary. A majority of orphans today are either sex slaves, handicapped beggars, soldiers, suicide bombers, human shields, fodder for mine fields, or shackled to bonded labor – perhaps the least of the many ugly potential consequences.

According to UNICEF, in 2005, there were 132 million orphans across the globe. Together, this number represents the tenth largest nation on earth; a nation constantly vulnerable to an array of human predators, forcing young minds into perpetual subjugation and practically burning all avenues to an alternative lifestyle.

Once a child fires a bullet and claims life as a soldier on the battle field or is sexually assaulted or loses a limb to a mafia of beggars, his or her perspective changes forever and the physical or psychosocial damage – in most cases – cannot be undone.

In Pakistan, where conflicting ideologies compete to gain greater influence over opposing groups and ideas, disowned children, who don’t have a clue about right or wrong, become prime fodder to a system that thinks, behaves and survives in a twisted way. In the universe of crime, a plethora of options attempt to snatch and grab the vulnerable and the first to act usually wins.

UNICEF estimates that Pakistan is home to approximately 4.2 million orphans today. So many children in Pakistan are homeless, yet we continue to irresponsibly proliferate. Just yesterday, as I drove home after eating out in Lahore’s old city, a family of eight, precariously perched on a motorcycle yet somehow looking rather comfortable, attempted to overtake me. Six children of varying shapes and sizes were tucked in spaces between the mother, father, the bike handle and the brake light at the back.

When I see six children on one motorbike, here’s what I want to say to their parents: it is your right to produce as many children as you like. Go on and proliferate the land with your protégés. But be mindful of one thing: the more orphans you get off the street and into safe homes, the safer you and your expanding family is. Secondly, if you don’t have the means to provide safe transport to your children, consider a socially acceptable method to family planning and give your beautiful wife a break from popping babies.

Knowing that millions of children are living without care, I don’t understand how or why we continue to bring more to this world. What is our fixation with perpetuating our own bloodline? Is it truly important for our child to have our eyes and ears? What if he or she looked entirely different? Would that child learn and grow in your midst any differently? And if you truly loved that child would that child love you back any differently? These questions are pertinent only to those who feel like they’re connected to a unifying social fabric, where one man’s decision affects the entire fabric. Conversely, in the microscopic view of life, which is prevalent, the world starts and ends at me, and people of that approach are obsessed with their own blood.

If you are someone with the courage to think differently, adoption has its immense societal benefits. Even if you choose to have your own children and not adopt, a lighter shade of commitment is to sponsor an orphan. A basic Google search can help anyone understand who is doing exactly what in this field and if you are indeed someone who can dispose a fraction of your income to support an orphan, then there is no better way to do it than by supporting organizations that have the knowledge and resources to best utilize your funds.

Next time you write a check to a not-for-profit, I urge you to consider this: in Pakistan, where the cost of living is incredibly low compared to other countries, a child can be fed, clothed and educated for only six thousand rupees a month.

The writer is a communications consultant based in Lahore.