Twelve years ago my husband and I were going through foster parent training, and I still clearly remember our first session. One of our trainers stood up and said, “I am a mother. I am every kind of mother there is. I am a birth mother, a foster mother, an adoptive mother, a godmother, and a grandmother. I love being a mother.” My heart was filled with admiration for her! I could tell that she was one of the greats. She was one of those ordinary folk, given to loving others. She was the sort of person who had changed lives. I wanted to be just like her!
The truth is, even though I was never a foster child, I have had several mothers and fathers in my life. There was a time when my own mom was very young and battling some hard things in her life. I was on my own in some ways. I had “mothers” at school who stepped in and helped me. I had a second grade teacher who was always kind to me. She kept a hairbrush and barrettes in her desk drawer. I would come to school a few minutes early. She would brush my hair and pull it out of my eyes for me. I adored her! She was newly married and lived just down the street from me. I would go and visit her. Her, her husband and I would sit out on the steps leading up to her apartment and eat popsicles. I have never forgotten her kindness.
And then, there was my classmate’s mother, Mrs. B., who took me under her wing. She was our classroom mother for the four years that we were in school together. She came to help out with class parties and she went on field trips with us. She was always kind and sweet and I glued myself to her. I held her hand on field trips and hugged her whenever I saw her. Most people in our small town knew about the things that were going in my home. I’m sure there were those that whispered, shook their heads and looked the other way. Then, there were those who decided to step in and offer love and friendship. She was one of those.
She was kind and generous. I remember her coming to school one time with a special cake for me. It was a personal cake with a picture of a kitten on top. I felt like the most special kid in the world! The circus came to town and she took me. I was fascinated by the elephants. She bought me a ticket to ride on one. I remember going to church with her at least once, and she took me to Vacation Bible School. I remember her holding me in her lap and telling me that Jesus loved me and that He had a special plan for my life. I knew that if she said it, it was true. There was never a doubt. I moved away from that small town at the end of fourth grade, and I haven’t seen her since, but her love and kindness have impacted my life in a major way.
I wish I could say that I was so impacted that I was always good after that. But, I wasn’t. As a pre-teen, I got into stealing and lying. I’m sad to stay that I was rather good at it and I pulled the wool over a few eyes. But, my life changed when my mom became a Christian and we started attending church. I wanted to know God. I tried my best to be good and do the right things. I had youth leader’s who loved me and encouraged me to follow God. One of my youth leaders grew up as a foster child and could not be adopted by her foster family until she was eighteen years old. Her story planted the seed in my heart to become a foster/adoptive parent.
I left home to go to school when I was nineteen. It was my first time away from my family and my friends. I had every intention of doing the right things and being good. I got involved in a church right away. A sweet older couple would pick me up for church every Sunday. After church we would have lunch together. They were also ordinary folk who took the time to invest in a teenage girl’s life. In spite of my going to church and trying to be good during that time, the new friends that I made were partiers. I began to drink and go to parties. I very quickly lost control of my life and did many things that I regret. Yet, I would still wake up every Sunday morning and go to church.
One Saturday night I was so filled with self-hatred and regret that I sat in my room and thought of ways that I could end my life. I was desperate and I had no hope. I screamed out to God, “Where are You?” I wanted to know where that God was that I had heard about my whole life. I felt abandoned by Him. I remember shouting through tears, “Where are you? Are You real? If You are, help me!” Finally my ranting stopped and I sat quietly. I started to remember that small town where I once lived and the kindness of the ladies that I mentioned. In particular, I thought of Mrs. B. I remembered how she told me that Jesus loved me and that He had a plan for my life. I wondered how He could love me and if He really did have a plan for me. I wasn’t sure if He even knew my name.I remembered my youth leaders who had invested so much in me. I remembered all the love that had been poured into me. I began to talk to God again, but this time, instead of just ranting, I started praying. I asked God to please help me.
The next morning I went to church. I listened to the sermon, went to lunch and headed home. When it was time to climb out of the backseat of that sweet couple’s car, I couldn’t. They sat there for a minute looking at me and finally said, “Is everything okay?” I don’t remember everything I said, but I know I started to cry and told them what had been going on. They were very gracious. They told me they would be praying for me.
Then, they went home and called a friend who worked with college aged kids through a church ministry called university Christian Fellowship (UCF). That phone call changed the entire course of my life. That was almost twenty-five years ago. I moved permanently to Kentucky to be a part of UCF. and the church that it was a part of. Through UCF I finally came to realize that being good wasn’t what mattered. I needed a savior! I was discipled through through that church. That’s where I met my husband. It’s the church that we are raising our children in. It’s where our friends that we have grown up with since teenagers are, and where the friends that are growing older with are. That sweet couple acted out of love and compassion. They wanted to help me, and in something as ordinary as making a phone call, they changed my life.
Honestly, I could go on and on about ordinary people who made a big difference in my life, but I would be here for days! For the most part, these have all been just ordinary people who simply loved and showed kindness to a girl who desperately needed it. I appreciate the great men and women of God who do extraordinary things. We need the people who stand up front and show us great things and lead us. But we also really need the ordinary folk who love their neighbors and the other ordinary folk, and keep the darkness at bay.