Over the years, I have come to realize that family is not always the one who gives birth to us. Today I was reminded of this when two of our girls came home for a visit. As we sat in the floor and talked about the old days, we reminisced about the day that the girls were strangers. Although the girls lived in the home years apart, they didn’t realize they were sisters until recently.
You see, one of our girls is a new mom. Her son was born with a heart defect that has left him in the NICU since birth. For two months, we’ve watched our child who arrived in a patrol car many years ago sit through four heart surgeries, two medically induced comas, and now a medical paralysis to allow her newborn to heal. Her Angel House sister reached out to lend support, shelter, respite, and care to ease her burden.
As the two young mothers sat on opposite sides of the lobby, we laughed about the days when we all met. Through temper tantrums, broken windows, runaway episodes, school suspensions, court hearings, and countless other encounters, we have stuck it out. We have seen both girls at the worst, and both at their best.
As the girls told stories of “back in the day” the realization was made that this is their home. It is where children count the days until emancipation and often run rather than walk to what they believe is freedom. It is a world where case managers and staff members are no longer meddling in every decision they make. The meal planning, designated laundry day, mandatory school attendance, and negative consequences require staying home on Saturday are replaced with freedom. The post it notes left on their doors and walls from staff reminding them “you are loved” and “today will be better” no longer waits for them. The craziness of getting ready for school and fighting over a spot in the bathroom with the best lighting is no longer required.
There is something to be said about having a place to call home. It is an anchor for a boat that otherwise would just drift. It’s a place where both good and bad memories are made and at the end of it, you know that within those four walls people love you and will move mountains to help you reach your destination. We love being that home.
As our girls walked the halls of their home I had the greatest sense of pride in them. Two strangers whom many gave up on years ago kept fighting. They are now mothers themselves and have come to the realization that the home who expected so much of them had a purpose. My friends, nothing in life happens by chance. Every person that we touch in life is placed there for us to learn from. They learned a lot from us as children, but today I have learned so much from each of them.
As you continue on your journey in life, take time to look back at where you’ve been. Rather than view your past as a burden, consider it as a time in life that was meant to prepare you for something you would face in your future. Remind yourself that people are placed in our life for a specific reason. Some of us have tougher skin than others. We aren’t the women you’ll find drying our eyes when girls have horrible things to say out of anger. But we are the women you will see who believe every child that enters our home is now a part of our family.
There’s a great book that I would encourage every person to read. “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” by Mitch Albom is a game changer. The short story is that every interaction you have in life impacts another. If I have learned anything in 30 years of serving the foster care system it is this. Every single experience has taught me something valuable. When you find the value in others you will become the richest person alive. Make a good investment. I can promise you, the long term dividends you invest in another can make you a millionaire many times over.
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