“Love (ALL) Unconditionally.”
For a couple of weeks now, we have been running a t-shirt sale with that message, as an adoption fundraiser for our newest family member. I’ve been mentally composing a blog post all that time to explain why that concept, that phrase, is so important to me.
But then, the shirt started selling, and selling some more. Nearly 100 shirts later, to many people I don’t know – and I thought “people GET it. They know what I’m talking about!” And I wondered, do I really need to explain?
Well, maybe I don’t need to explain why that message is important – but I did want to at least share what’s on my heart.
A lot of you know my older brother has Down syndrome. Much of my childhood was spent with people with various abilities and physical and mental challenges. Special Olympics weekends were a way of life. These folks with special needs were awesome, and their coaches, their teachers, the judges, the volunteers – all of them AWESOME. Living, breathing examples of unconditional acceptance and love. It was and is an awesome thing to witness.
I spent my middle school and teenage years volunteering with various service organizations. I remember making newborn clothes, and personally giving them to a teenager who was pregnant and visiting a crisis pregnancy center and food bank where I served. I remember the way the organizers acted, always with a smile and an embrace and a “we are here for you” message of encouragement and support. They were living, breathing examples of unconditional love and acceptance to people who were facing HARD decisions, and often times the rejection of family and friends.
I remember organizing a holiday toy drive for an impoverished family in our community when I was a teen. I remember watching my friends and classmates bring in bag after bag of wrapped toys and clothing, for this fairly large family. Youth doing good things, serving and caring and saying “yes you matter, and we are going to show you unconditional love.”
I remember my Dad taking me to a homeless shelter in our downtown metropolitan area and being struck by the enormity of poverty. Children my own age with no toys, no home, maybe a hand-me-down coat. In my own state. It was probably 25 years ago, and the images and smells and sounds are etched in my mind.
Disabled children and adults. Pregnant teens. Impoverished families. It was all a part of my life growing up, and I loved to serve, but even more so I admired so deeply the people who gave up their lives in service to others. I wanted to feel like in some way, some teensy tiny way I could make a difference for someone. Even if the difference was that that one particular day, somebody smiled at them and spoke kind words instead of turning away in disgust.
Nothing makes me happier than stories of people loving unconditionally. A police officer who buys new shoes for a homeless man. A little old lady half a world away, loving on orphaned children and the societal outcasts. Teachers reaching into their own pockets to meet basic needs of their students. People sharing their artistic talents to brighten the lives of children with terminal illnesses.
None of these are things people have to do. They are choosing to do them, and it’s a life-changing thing — for both the people doing and the people receiving.
Several years ago, a little girl who was loved, loved deeply we believe, was no longer able to be cared for by her parents. She was left near a police station in China, where she was certain to be found. Since child abandonment is illegal in China, that location was an incredibly dangerous place for her parents – but it was an incredibly safe place for her. Love so deep, that her parents risked themselves to ensure a future for their daughter. (Before you judge too harshly child abandonment, I implore you to read this article).
She was moved to an orphanage and seemed to thrive and grow, and then something happened to her.
We don’t know what happened or what changed, but she needed help.
Luckily we were already well on our way to bring her home to our family. Yes, I was wholly overwhelmed with the extent of her malnutrition and delays. But we had committed to loving her, and loving her unconditionally.
When we met her, it was a no-brainer that we would be bringing her home.
We toured orphanages. I was overwhelmed, I was sickened. I was heartbroken. Even the GOOD, amazing, wonderful place we toured — providing wonderful life saving care and offering love… It broke me. Hundreds of children with nobody. NOBODY that was really “their” person.
I came home from China a changed person. Knee-deep in appointments and therapies for awhile with our newest, we also set out to find ways to help support some of these organizations, advocating for orphans left behind, and finding out needs for these places to see what we could do.
It was in this time advocating that I met “Forest.” The mother of a little girl we met in China was advocating for him, as he had the same need as her daughter. I saw him and knew. He was ours.
On Christmas Day 2014, China granted our preapproval. A month later, we are nearly done with our home study and dossier. Christmas 2015, this little guy should be in our home. (Hopefully sooner than that, even.)
He was abandoned when he was just days old. We hope he is loved, we hope he is valued.
We want him to know we love him, exactly as he is. He does have special needs, as our daughter did, and we want him to know that he is perfect and lovable and perfect. We want him to know we love him UNCONDITIONALLY.
We want to meet him in China with our other children there (yes, taking the whole family to China), we want them to meet him on “his turf.” We want our children to see and experience firsthand where their littlest brother is coming from. We want them to have a different perspective on life, and changed hearts. We want to serve in China alongside them.
I have this vision of someday walking down the street in Random City, USA holding my boy’s hand. I imagine seeing somebody I don’t know, wearing a “Love Unconditionally” shirt. (Be forewarned if this is you). I imagine squealing and jumping up and down and running toward you with my little boy in tow. I imagine pointing at your shirt and pointing at him. Saying “this boy, THIS boy, because you said ‘YES, I agree with this message’ or ‘YES, I support this adoption!’ because you said THAT, this boy is HOME!” And I’ll high-five you or hug you or something. Because you’ll be one of those awesome people spreading a message of unconditional love – and making a living, breathing difference.
In four days our t-shirt sale ends. Please consider sharing our message of Unconditional Love. $20 – just $20 – can truly make a difference. Available in YXS – Adult 5XL, in two different colors, here.