Over the last 28 days, I’ve explored 27 different stories, themes, principles and acts I find inspirational. These things, people, ideas help me want to be a better me. I would love to report to you, dear reader, that I always succeed in that endeavor, but alas I do not. Nor, I think, do most people. There is ALWAYS room to grow and change and be better. This isn’t an exercise for the young, it’s an exercise for the living.
I’ve endeavored to take what I found to be a Presidential election race devoid of inspiration, and to find some for myself with the hope that by sharing these pieces of daily inspiration I could help influence someone, anyone to grow and change and be better no matter to what degree. It’s been a remarkably fulfilling journey for me: I’ve spent the last month literally working to see the good in situations, seeking out stories I could discuss, culling life lessons from less than ideal situations. It forces a shift in perspective. I’ve learned that there really is plenty of good out there, an amazing amount of inspiration in the every day if only you look and WANT to see it.
Thus, for my last entry in this series, I want to share with you what I consider to be one of the most selfless, life affirming and loving things anyone can do for another person.
Families By Choice: The DiBonas, Servellos, Sheilds’, Shapiros
On Day 12, I shared the idea of Foster Parenting as a support and a hand up for kids who may not have another shot. Kids so disadvantaged they have no idea where they’re going to sleep otherwise, where they’re going to go to school, where they have someone who legitimately cares for them. It’s a caring and often thankless avocation.
On Day 28, though, I want to share with you the people who take another person into their lives, and make them their own. Adopting a child, taking another person into your life and home, and binding them to you as a member of your family has to be one of the most amazing, loving things a family can do for another human being.
The adoption journey is a different one for every family that goes through it. I’m fortunate to have close friends and people I’ve known since I was a child – maybe even grew up together – who have taken this step. They’re all inspirational people with inspirational stories, so much so I couldn’t just focus on one and felt singling each out on their own day would miss the mark. They’re inspirational stories not only because they share the ultimate goal of accepting someone into their family, but because they all had to accept their futures weren’t necessarily theirs to decide – they were at the whim of the fates to which they submitted themselves.
Michael and Julie DiBona shared with me that while having a family was something they always wanted – indeed ever since she was a little girl Julie wanted to adopt a child – time just kind of got away from them. We’ve shared some challenges together, and we’ve shared positives together – that’s kind of what friendship is, I guess – so when they asked me to write a reference letter for their adoption effort, I was humbled that I was chosen to help them in completing their family; even more humbled when I could help notarize their documents at some weird hour as they were preparing their trip across country.
Outside of a couple of minor false alarms, it was a matter of waiting for them. Then on one random day, a call came. There was a birth mother that had chosen them…but they had to decide more or less now. Within 24 hours they had started their plans in motion – kitty care, airline tickets, everything – and were en route to Texas. With so much that could conceivably go wrong, everything went right.
The birth mom of their beautiful little girl had them in the delivery room, had them cut the umbilical cord, they were the first to hold her. They had planned for this moment, organized their lives around this moment, and after a frenzied 12-hour dash to the finish line, their story book was ready.
Compare Debbie and Sean Shields’ story. They tried to build their family through egg donation and through three attempts, and they made the decision to adopt. Their adoption journey was no less harrowing. They had their share of failed matches when they got the call, much like Michael and Julie, that they should go to California.
Its there, though, that their stories diverge. After welcoming and accepting this newborn into their lives, the birth mother changed her mind. The story is unknown as to how that will work out for that family, one hopes it was ultimately the right decision, although one can only think about the family they know and can only feel the empathy and pain they must have felt on that lonely flight home.
Upon reflection, they came to the decision that upon the expiration of their home study, they would not seek to renew their application. Yet, fate intervened. An email the day after they had decided they would no longer hold out hope of a midnight phone call, informed them there had been a baby boy born a day prior and they could be under consideration. Perhaps a bit defeated from previous experience, and some delay between the two of them, they learned from the agency that their profile had been submitted even without their having decided – and the mom had chosen them.
After having come so close an entire continent away, their baby awaited them two hours away on the other side of the state – one of the small north east states. The birth parents signed the paperwork 72 hours after the baby boy was born – mom had discharged herself from the hospital by the time they arrived. To have Debbie tell it, they had gone to work on Wednesday a couple and on Monday they were a family of 3.
Unlike the surprise call Michael and Julie received, or the heart-wrenching false alarms Debbie and Sean had to experience before their families were complete, Chrissy Shapiro already had a son when she and her husband David married and began their journey to grow their family. After several miscarriages, and IVF, they welcomed their daughter to their family. After some consideration, though, it became apparent that their daughter’s life would be enriched by having a sibling closer in age. David, having been adopted himself, suggested that as an option to further their already blended family. They chose to adopt internationally and their initial excitement quickly evolved to confusion, sadness and guilt.
Beyond the considerations of choosing a world of children looking for a family, they had more than a few stumbling blocks: In India, they couldn’t adopt because they were both previously divorced; in Columbia we couldn’t adopt because David was 40 . They were finally left with Ethiopia and Guatamala. At that time, there was concern with children being abducted and put up for adoption in Guatamala, so Ethiopia was the choice by default, but perhaps that was because there was a child for them that needed them more than anyone else in this world.
11-months after their agency meeting, they were matched with a one month old male who was abandoned and wrapped in a yellow and black blanket under a bush. Today their son thrives in their suburban community – consider what life may have had to offer him as an abandoned baby half a world away.
Diana and Sergio Servello had similar but not the same journey; theirs was built on faith. Before they were married they talked about adopting children – Diana herself was adopted. They had 3 biological children when they decided the time was right to adopt. Our other families were seeking babies, infants to join their families. Diana and Sergio were looking for an older child – specifically they did not want a 2-year old in diapers because their youngest was 12, so they were looking for someone 5-8. They were rewarded with their two year old in diapers. Diana tells her family’s story through the lens of faith in God, the God that has given her and Sergio 7 children – biological and adopted – between the ages of 3 and 23 in a large racially blended family. In so doing, they have affected the lives of their own biological children and the lives of these children they didn’t have to know to love.
Today would have been Michael’s father’s birthday – the man in whose memory he went forward to take on the challenge of fatherhood.
So much influence and inspiration from so many places; and most of all their own families. Different journeys, different circumstances, but the same result. Children who may have otherwise had few others, if anyone at all, to love them and help them fulfill their potential, have found solid loving families. Children from across the state, across the country, across the world. Babies. Older kids. The common theme is a desire for family – that connection with and between another person. Some of the parents here were adopted themselves – giving back to the universe that gave to them. And so the story of kindness and giving and love continues in their adult families.
Their families have chosen them and given them all the greatest possible gift a person can give another – Love. In a world where it’s so easy to see the negative and the worst in human nature, where we see families pulled apart and in need, it’s so important to take a step back and see how special family is – so special in fact these families wanted to share it with someone who may not have had one without them.
As it happens, November is adoption month. Take some time and learn some more about adoption.