The kids and I were at the pool when the first call came in. Only 48 hours earlier, we had jumped for joy as we received word that we were an officially licensed foster family. My heart began to beat faster as our Licensing Agency Specialist shared with me that there was a two year old boy who needed a safe place to stay. With nervous excitement we said yes! We were told that we would receive a call confirming he would definitely be coming to stay with our family. I never received a confirmation call so I tried to relax my mind. Luckily, Ray was at home because not long afterwards, the doorbell rang. Ray opened the door to see little James* staring up at him.
The kids and I arrived home from the pool. As soon as we walked in, I looked across the room to see an absolutely adorable (yet very scared) little boy sitting on the couch. I could hardly believe this was happening! It was never my intention to miss our first child’s arrival. As I walked closer to him, I saw eyes filled with uncertainty and fear. Life as he knew it had just changed, drastically and without warning. He now sat in a home surrounded by strangers.
My mind quickly raced through all the things he must be thinking and feeling. I wasn’t prepared for that moment. Instinctively, I sat down beside him and gave him a gentle hug. As I looked into his gloomy eyes, I told him how happy I was to see him and that we would take good care of him so he didn’t need to worry. I introduced him to everyone and told him we were going to have a lot of fun playing together.
After calming James, I was able to step aside and talk to Ray. I quickly realized two things: (1) we didn’t know much about this little boy (2) my amazing husband had handled this unexpected situation like a super hero.
As the DSS worker and a family member walked to the car, Ray thought quickly and asked, “What does he like?” “Chicken nuggets, Lightening McQueen, and mangos, “ was the reply.
That’s not a lot of information to work with, but I am ever so grateful Ray thought to ask. The familiarity of those items helped tremendously in the days to come.
It didn’t take us long before we learned something else about our new friend. He didn’t speak English. Oh my word! A barrier of that proportion could have caused major difficulty. Instead, our family learned a powerful lesson that night:
Love and laughter have no boundaries.
Less than an hour after arriving, he was giggling loudly and running circles around the couch with my children. I have a permanent picture of that moment etched in my memory. I could hardly believe the beauty I was hearing and seeing in our home. I thought for a second my heart may burst.
We knew James wouldn’t be with us long so we were very deliberate about making the most of the time we had.
Over the following two weeks, we laughed and played, and laughed some more. We also planned a party to celebrate his upcoming birthday. We bought Lightening McQueen plates and napkins, and pretty much, Lightening McQueen everything.
The afternoon of his birthday came. The food was prepared and everything was set for the guests to arrive within a couple of hours. My phone rang and I thought it was strange to receive a call from the case worker that late in the day. He asked what our plans were for the evening and went on to ask us to meet him in one hour with James and his belongings. My heart dropped as he said the words: James was going home. Just as abruptly as he came to us, he was leaving us. We quickly gathered his clothes and toys and gave him the gifts we had saved for his party.
Our family sat in complete disbelief as we rode to meet the DSS worker and the family. We made sure they all knew what an incredible kid he was. It was a bittersweet moment watching the smiles on their end and feeling the heavy hearts on our end. As we drove away, I heard the sound of sobbing echoing throughout the backseat. All of our children were crying. They told us how much they were going to miss him. They told us how much they enjoyed the time they shared with him. They went on to tell me that they were so disappointed we wouldn’t be having his party. I spoke with passion as I reminded them that we had done what God asked us to do, for the time He asked us to do it. Not only that, but we had done it well. Ray and I both made sure they knew that they had done a wonderful job of opening their hearts and home and how very proud they made us. As they talked through the memories, their tears turned to laughter.
It was in that moment that I knew what we had to do. The party must go on! Although he wasn’t there, we celebrated that incredible little boy on his third birthday. We celebrated good memories. We celebrated the love shown. We celebrated a job well done.
Our family changed a little that night. Because of the short time we were able to share with a Lightening McQueen loving, mango eating foster child, our family was a little richer. It’s true… love and laughter have no boundaries.
* (I have changed his name to protect his identity)