Today my friend “Sue,” also an adoptive foster parent, told me of a harrowing tale involving her children’s older brother. Considering all he’s been through, “Kevin” is not a bad kid. Certainly he doesn’t deserve what life has dished out to him – losing not only his birth parents but also his four siblings, who have been adopted by two families. For their safety, Kevin cannot be placed with his brothers and sisters, so at the tender age of ten he is living in a group home with children considerably older than himself.
Each time Sue sees him, she says, Kevin is a little more resigned to his fate.
Well, “resigned” is not the right word. He cries. He rages. He asserts – quite vehemently – that Sue had no right to give his brother and sister a new name. They belong to him. His feelings are understandable; while his siblings have a bright future ahead of them, Kevin’s dreams are squarely in the past.
Sue told me that as she returned Kevin to the group home, he sobbed as she led him to the front door. “What could I say? I just hugged him. I’ve been praying for a family for Kevin from the beginning, but it is becoming harder and harder to sound convincing or encouraging. Is it loving to hold out hope where very little exists?”
In her more emotional moments, Sue toys with the idea of finding a way to take Kevin, too – but he has amply demonstrated that he preys on younger children. And Sue recognizes that her first responsibility must be to the two she already has.
And so, she hugged him tight and left, fuming under her breath: Where are You in this, God?
I know exactly how she feels. All my life I’ve operated under the assumption that God has a plan for all His children; I’ve seen God’s Providence come through in very trying situations. So why is He distressingly silent in this situation? Is it possible that, in Kevin’s case, God’s plan does not include a family?
Or maybe it did, and that family decided they wanted a different plan.
I once heard Mary Beth Bonacci observe, “God calls all of us to give ourselves in love, either to marriage or consecrated religious life. Fortunately, He is very generous with His ‘Plan B.’”
So in this case, maybe God’s ‘Plan B’ is for each of us to do what we can, and trust that it will be enough from keeping kids like Kevin from going off the path altogether. He wants us to cry and pray and struggle alongside them, always keeping our eyes on the primary task at hand: To keep our own children safe.
It’s not the ideal situation. Frankly, it stinks.
It also reminds me of something that for years puzzled me. When Christ was on earth, He is never recorded as having healed whole crowds of people with a single word, though doubtless He had the power to do so. He almost always did it one at a time, usually with some kind of personal contact. Have you ever noticed this? Wouldn’t it have been a far more convincing proof of the power of the gospel to heal them en masse, no muss or fuss? He could have set up a cushy private practice somewhere . . . He could have wiped out world hunger by opening soup kitchens with all that multiplied fish and bread.
And yet, these were not tasks entrusted to Him by the Father. The Lord came, first and foremost, to give His life in order to restore the human race to spiritual wholeness, and to plant the seedling Church that would tend His fields and flocks in His absence. And He came to give us a living example of what it means to carry those burdens – and only those burdens – God calls us to bear.
“The poor you shall always have with you…” Christ observed to the disciple who criticized the perceived extravagance of the woman who anointed the Lord with costly ointment and wiped His feet with her hair. For foster and adoptive parents, there is a lesson for us here: We cannot allow ourselves to become overwhelmed, or distracted by burdens God has not entrusted to us.
We cannot get too far ahead, worrying about next year or even next week. Each day God gives us a little more light, just enough to take the next step along the path He has called us to follow. One day at a time, one child at a time: We will have strength enough to follow Him only if we trust Him to carry the rest.
Don Bosco, while you were on earth you were father to hundreds of fatherless children. We pray for Kevin, and children like him, that their hearts will not grow hard before they have the chance to feel the full force of the love of God’s Sacred Heart.
And, dear Heavenly Father, if it’s not too much to ask, please provide a family for Kevin. In the Holy Name of the Most Blessed Trinity, Amen.