Some of the greatest things in my life I have stumbled into. Our weekend visits would be easily put in this category.
It started with a Christmas party. One of my art classes was able to come over to our home to decorate sugar cookies, eat pizza and see our Christmas tree. It was soooo much fun. One student wasn’t able to come because he was sick. He was disappointed and asked if he could come some other time. That is where the idea was planted.
It has taken some time to get the approvals, but we were able to sign out the guy who missed the Christmas party. I made pizza, we took him to the park to fly a kite and my kids taught him how to play dominos. It was even more fun than the Christmas party. My sweet student ate up the one on one attention and enjoyed a Saturday out of the orphanage. My family found great joy in serving together and opening our home to this amazing kiddo.
The thing is, if I had been sitting down trying to decide how we should be spending our time this semester, weekend visits would not have made the list. I probably would have doubted if it was good for my students. I would have wondered if it would be too hard on our family. I wasn’t sure if I could handle a teen in a wheelchair. [Our city isn’t the easiest to manage if you are handicapped.] We don’t have a car. The bus and a wheelchair? Going to a park with a teen in a wheelchair? It seemed like a daunting idea. Maybe that is why God had us stumble into this. He knew I would have said no!
But, it wasn’t as hard as I thought and the blessings of the day far out weighed the obstacles. Actually, our four super kids took a vote and decided we should do it once a month.
The next guy we wanted to have for a Saturday (we will call him Ben) often has classes on Saturday mornings so we waited and asked for him to join our family on a holiday. I asked Ben if he would want to come hang out with us – not all 12 year old boys want to go hang out with their art teacher. His response with tears in his eyes, “Oh, yes, teacher. Please take me away from here.” When the social worker suggested that we have him stay with us for the whole weekend, how could I say no? That is how we stumbled even further into our weekend visitors and the joy they are giving our family.
We had the best weekend. Ben put together his first lego set with Soccer Dude. Roo introduced him to the art of origami and the youngest two taught him many, many card and board games. He pretended to like pizza and enjoyed our time out at the park. Our family learned that having a teen in a wheelchair really isn’t that big of a deal. I can’t tell you how many times I looked up and thought – “Why do I fear older child adoption?”
It was so hard to take him back to the orphanage that Monday.
My students – many of them are normal kids who have a hope for the future. Family would be a part of that hope. I am not saying that older child adoption would be easy, but in a few short days I realized that it would be worth all of the effort. Yet, for many of these kids the dream of family will never be realized. After a child turns 5 years old, their chances of adoption are close to none. Chances are even slimmer for boys. Most adoptive families are hoping to adopt a girl who is as young as possible. I get that. I also felt that way during our first adoption. I get wondering if a 5 year old will embrace family life, if they will overcome the years they spent in an institution, if there will be life long effects from medical needs that have gone unmet. All of these are huge looming questions in an adoptive parent’s mind and they should be considered. Then to consider all that with a 12 year old – the idea seems daunting.
But there is another side.
The next week in my art class three of the teen boys made a circle around me with their wheelchairs. They obviously had gotten all the details of the weekend from Ben. They had questions. “Ben says you have four kids…two are adopted? Where are they from? Do they know their birthparents?”
I was taken back by their questions at first. I thought they would be curious about what we ate, what our home looked like, or if we were rich. Instead all of their questions surrounded my kids.
“We are like them.” They said. “We don’t know our birthparents. We don’t have family. Why don’t you adopt one of us?”
For as long as I live, I will never forget the haunting look of a child who believes they are unwanted. My heart will be forever shaped by the hope in the eyes of these young teen boys who are desperate for the love of a mother. This is not what I used to think about when I pictured a teenage boy who has grown up in an institution. They have dreams of an education. They have hopes of leaving the orphanage, but even more they have a longing for acceptance and love that can only be found through a family – when they are given a last name.
Family. Forever. It means something. These teens know that.
Our weekend visits, they don’t meet the needs of my students, but it is something. I am hoping that these boys learn that they are loved by a teacher and her family. I also am hoping as I share their stories that the word will get out. There are 12 year old boys waiting and hoping for a family. They are not scary. They are kids. They need a last name. Pray for them. Consider adoption. Give to a family who is able to adopt. Become a foster family. Share their stories. Be a part of the solution.