Open Your Heart To A Child And Reap The Rewards

Friends at Husky Stadium in Seattle

Friends at Husky Stadium in Seattle. (Photo courtesy Dana Styber, Flickr)

Heather and I have never made any secret about the fact that we would love to adopt children. We are nurturers at heart, and we’ve always envisioned ourselves ending up on a big homestead with hordes of adopted children and grandchildren visiting us on special occasions. It’s our dream really. But anytime we bring the idea up in mixed company, we’re met with everything from praise to shock and sometimes, horror. The mix of emotions runs the gamut, and it has always been funny to us how differently people react to the idea of adopting kids that for one reason or another have ended up in the foster care system, wards of the state, waiting for their forever family to come claim them.

The truth of the matter is, adoption is always something that has appealed to me for various reasons. My uncle, a sheriff in Orange County, Calif., adopted my three cousins after he saved them during a drug bust when they were all less than five years old, and they all shaped up beautifully. I always admired him and his wife for doing that.

Then, when I was in college, I started working with Tri-State Adoption Agency in Cincinnati. They would bring children from the orphanages to the university and we’d interview them and write bios about them for the agency’s website. I still remember a boy named Danny. He was twelve at the time, and after we tossed the football around a bit, we went into the studio and interviewed him. When I asked him what kind of parents he would like to have, he simply said, “Trustable.” That one word broke my heart because I couldn’t help but wonder what he had seen in his short life. I wanted to take him home and love him, but couldn’t, and instead went home and cried over all these kids without loving homes who simply want to belong to a family, something most of us take for granted.

It was also around that time that I started working with Big Brothers Big Sisters again. I used to do some work with them years before, but this time we were matched with a little Hispanic boy we all called Junior. He was so shy at first and barely spoke. We didn’t know what to do to draw him out, and we wondered if he even liked Heather and I. But eventually he started to talk on our fifth outing together. We took him to see Kung Fu Panda, which he loved. On the way home, he started talking in full sentences and it was such a rewarding feeling. We later learned that he had watched his baby brother die and wanted to go to heaven to be able to watch over him. Junior had basically shut down as a result of that loss. No wonder he didn’t talk!

After college, we started investigating adoption and began the whole process of getting certified. We came close to being matched up several times, but for one reason or another it just never worked out. So to fill that need to nurture, I’ve focused on kids I tutored at a local elementary school, helping them with their reading. I also worked with several interns, who become like my kids, and I stay in touch with them even after they leave and go back to school or get full time jobs of their own. I’m always so proud of them and what they accomplish! I’m just happy I had a chance to touch their life in some small way, even if for a brief period of time.

The point of all this is to say that if you’re like us and have a need to nurture others, there are lots of great ways to do it. Whether you can foster or adopt, tutor or even mentor young people, all of these things help give your life meaning. It is hard to be depressed when you’re focusing on helping others. And as the happiness expert, Dr. Amit Sood of the Mayo Clinic, told me Monday during an interview, when we give of ourselves to others, we find meaning in our lives, and inevitably happiness will follow.

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About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

2 Responses to Open Your Heart To A Child And Reap The Rewards

  1. Cynthia says:

    That was a lovely post Jathan! Hugs to you both! Cindy

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