|My/Not My Kids
When I retired and sold my television
broadcasting business, I found myself in a void: I had worked hard for
30+ years, usually non-stop 7 days a week, and now that I was finished
with that part of my life, I found it difficult to adjust to all that extra
time on my hands, and I needed to start searching for something more to
fill my days.
I had been stuck in a bad marriage
for 20 years, was now divorced, and due to the rocky marriage, was childfree
by choice. As my mind wandered and I asked my heart what I really wanted
to do, my calling became louder every day, and I was probably the one most
surprised of all after all these years to find that I felt what I really
wanted to do was to have some kids!
When I casually made the announcement,
my family and friends all thought I was nuts: you have kids at the beginning
of your life, not during the second half, they said. And why finally now?
And how could it ever happen? And what in God's name was I thinking?
After a few weeks of letting the
idea of bringing children into my life settle in and grow some more, I
had faith that the Universe would help me find "my kids"... the question
of where I would find them, or who they were, or what circumstances would
bring them to me, or me to them, would all be sorted out and solved by
God and my life's destiny.
Then one afternoon a few days later,
as I was doing the dishes and distracted with other thoughts, it came to
me: I would find some orphans to sponsor, to "adopt". And as soon as I
had that epiphany, the image of a whole bunch of smiling faces came in
loud and clear into my mind! Who are they, I wondered... where are
they? And now more urgent than ever, how do I find them?
More days passed... I was reluctant
to talk to anyone about it, except for some reason one day I mentioned
it to a long distance friend. We usually bounced conversations of ideas
about all kinds of subjects between us a few time a week, and it just kind
of fell out of my mouth one day: I told him I wanted to find some orphans
to sponsor, and asked if he could help me find them. I think he doubted
my intentions, or why I would ever do such a thing, but finally surprisingly
he said he would see what he could do to help.
A few more days passed and I grew
nervous... perhaps it was all just a pipe dream. But then, a few afternoons
later, I sat down at my computer and there was an email from my friend:
yes, he had found two possible choices! He said he was willing to help
me select the most likely one, the one that needed me the most, and at
the end of our conversation after weighing the pros and cons of both, we
decided on a private orphanage called “Rodzinka”, in Wałbrzych, Poland.
I was elated! We decided the most
direct way to introduce myself and my interest was for us to draft a simple
letter of greetings to the Caregiver, asking what the children needed,
and offering my help. My friend translated and sent the email for
me, and I impatiently waited for their reply.
It was the longest week of my life!
And then, the answer arrived: Yes, they would very much appreciate my help...
There were 33 children total: the
youngest barely 2 years old, the oldest 17. There were some siblings in
the mix, as well as only children, now all living together in a big house
with a play yard and football field nearby. Winter was coming, and they
needed boots and coats... books would be nice, too. Footballs were especially
So I got to work and prepared what
was to be the first of many gift boxes shipped off for the Christmases
and Easters to follow. I started a library for them, and got books donated
from others as well. And I made sure there were the extras: toys and treats
to make them know how much they were loved.
Each and every package and gift was
answered by the children with their pictures full of smiling faces and
beautiful hand drawn cards and letters.
The kids had their first experience
being treated as VIP's when they traveled to Warsaw to meet the Prime Minister
of Poland, Donald Tusk! They had their picture taken with him, and it was
even printed in the newspaper... our own little celebrities!
One Spring a request came from Jola,
the children's Caregiver, saying with funding she could take the kids to
their first summer camp in the woods: I sent the check and they had a real
trip to the country with canoe rides, bon fires, and sleeping under the
stars.The pictures show what a great time they had!
The kids also traveled to the Baltic
shore, many of them seeing the sea for the first time in their lives. Their
opportunities to travel, to see different parts of the country, and to
meet famous people and be treated as important was a priceless gift of
education and experiences for them all.
I think all children are a gift from
God, and "mine" were no different: each and every one of them brought pure
joy to my heart as I spent hours looking at pictures of their smiling faces,
their wonderful artwork, and reading about their personalities, activities
and accomplishments. Across the miles we celebrated all 33 of their birthdays
and Confirmations, and all the milestones along the way.
From them I learned that it's never
too late, too crazy, or too difficult to follow your heart. There is always
a child to be loved, nurtured, and cared for. Lucky for me I found my very
special kids. I hope everyone has a chance to experience such joy, and
to get more back than they could ever possibly give.
Cherie Erwin is an Animal Rights
Activist and has worked as a Caregiver for New World Monkeys at Jungle
Friends Primate Sanctuary in Florida. She's been vegetarian for 46 years.
She received her Vegan Chef training and Diploma from the Vegan Society
in the U.K. She built, owned, and operated TV stations in Hawaii and California,
and produced television programming for satellite television. Now, she
lives with her 18 year old cat Else, and the whales and eagles on Whidbey
Island, just across the border from Vancover Island, B.C.