Magazine article The Christian Century

Gifts and Achievements. (A Letter to Derek)

Magazine article The Christian Century

Gifts and Achievements. (A Letter to Derek)

Article excerpt

DEAR DEREK: I have not forgotten the day we learned that you would be coming to live with us. I was sitting in my office at Oberlin and Mom called. She said that Children Services had a three-month-old boy who was due to come out of the hospital but could not be sent home to his biological parents. They needed to place him in a foster home and wanted to know if we'd take him.

At the time, we were only doing foster care for preadoptive infants, and you were not one. Still, though you didn't fit the profile, there you were. Ready to leave the hospital, needing a home. And the question was: Would we take you? Mom and I talked it over, and I can still remember saying to her, just as casually as I might comment on the weather, "Well, if you want to, it's OK with me."

Here we are, 18 years later, and it's still OK with me. But I have often thought about that moment, about how casually I made what turned out to be a lifelong commitment, and about how such moments shape our lives. I'll want to say more about that. For today, though, I want to write words about both the debt of thanks you owe to others and the pride you should take in where you've come.

You were, you know, born very prematurely, and you had a rough start in life that left you behind in lots of ways. For a long time I wasn't sure you could ever catch up. Clearly, you have, but you didn't accomplish it on your own. I'm not sure any little child ever got more attention from older brothers and sisters than you got from Peter, Ellen and Hannah. Peter throwing the ball to you time after time and then chasing it down when you threw it who-knows-where. Ellen and Hannah playing games with you for hours on end. But for all the thanks you owe them, you owe still more to Mom. It would be impossible to count the hours she devoted to you--driving you to therapists, reading up on your problems, giving you attention in the countless ways that you needed to catch up and, then, to flourish. …

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