THE DIFFERENCE YOU MADE IN MY LIFE
Set amidst the rolling hills, just minutes from a small town near Louisville, Kentucky,was our 40-acre farm. At four years old, I did not quite understand the sudden large addition to our small family. Suddenly, there were eight sometimes 10 teenage boys living in our house, ranging from ages 15 to 17. I later discovered this was the last stop for these children before being sent to juvenile detention or back to the boys' group home in Louisville.
The next three years were by far the best years of my childhood. I was not aware of their horrific histories, or the occasional mischievous troubles my parents had to handle. I just knew that I loved my new big brothers. Mike taught me to ride our horse at age five, while two of my other brothers taught me to ride my first bike. Then there were the days of swimming. On one occasion, I bravely jumped in the deepest part thinking that I had learned to swim well enough. When I found myself sinking and gasping for air, it was one of my big brothers who was closely watching me and jumped in to the rescue. But it was Kevin whom I most admired. He always encouraged me to think of others feelings and was the perfect example to me. When we moved to another state, Kevin was still legally a minor, so the state of Kentucky asked my parents to take him with us. He had nowhere else to go. After the move, Kevin took me for long bike rides exploring our new town, trips to the park, and an occasional visit to the local museum. After Kevin joined the Navy, upon his return, he remembered his little sister with several gifts, which I still treasure over 20 years later.
I know my parents had some pretty rough times. Years later, I was informed that my "brothers," David and Mark, had been forced to watch as their dad shot and killed their mother. Timothy's mother taught him to shoplift. Kevin had his own rough times too, including the separation from his biological siblings for years.
I now have a sister-in-law, four precious nieces and one nephew. Kevin is one of the best fathers I have ever known. Though he has experienced his share of troubles, he has turned every mistake and heartache into a positive learning experience. Numerous times, he has told me the difference those few years with my family made in his life, and of the respect he had for my dad when he would just take the time to listen to him, and for not passing judgment when he occasionally got into trouble. But, I have to disagree with Kevin about one thing. It was not "my" family. It is our family. Thank you Kevin, for making a difference in my life.
Consider this scenario: Six children, ages six to infancy are left to fend for themselves. Their father is an alcoholic truck driver. Their mother goes to "K-mart" and never returns. The state gets wind of the situation and deems the children wards of the state until they are 18.
How might this affect the lives of these impressionable, young children? It sounds like the premise of a "B" movie, but, in fact, this is the beginning of my story. This was a real situation. And the paths of these children's lives is quite a story, but the outcomes are strikingly similar to those of children in our own neighborhoods'. My story traverses into some painful times, but, by the grace of God and some caring people, I had opportunities to set the record straight.
It is up to us to break the chain. Differences can be made. But only through positive attitudes and genuine caring! Like the difference on man and his family made for me. Though I had shown a lack of respect for authority, they never gave up on me. They more the tried to include me, the more I pulled away. Not out of unwillingness to belong to their family, but out of fear of being hurt again. This was about my twentieth placement in 15 years and most likely my last stop before the streets, or just becoming another teenage statistic. But because of patience, genuine caring and real family values, this story has a happy ending.
Sadly, not all stories end like mine. It is our responsibility to care for the less fortunate. It reminds me of the song that says, "What if there are angels sent here from Heaven to see if we are doing our share?" It makes you think. So, when you tuck your children into bed tonight, say a prayer for another child that wants no more than to be loved and to belong.
Give from your heart, because that is where it starts. Every little bit is a bit of hope. God bless!
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