Tonight was Parents' Night for our two wrestlers. They are both such great competitors that it is a pleasure, even for a non-sports type like myself, to watch them compete. And tonight it was a real joy to stand with our two sons, along with other parents. Some of the boys had parents with them, some did not. I was proud to have been there.
After we were all introduced, and the crowd applauded, we took the gifts from our sons -- two yellow roses and two cellophane-wrapped bags of chocolates -- and sat down with two sets of friends from church. And there was a letter. Claudia ripped open the envelope as I glanced across her shoulder to read the words.
It took no more than the first sentence to collapse the wind from our lungs and brings sudden tears to ours eyes.
"Dear Mom and Dad ... Both me [Leon] and Ricardo want to thank you for everything you've done in our lives, like adopting the both of us, when nobody wanted us and giving us a better life."
The remaining sentences are the kind you would expect from a fourteen-year-old wrestler, thanking us for coming to some of their meets and for buying them Subway sandwiches.
We couldn't help but pass the letter to the friends sitting nearest us. They are also adoptive parents, and they too were struck by the straightforward words of gratitude.
What more can I say? Both Leon and RIcardo are the kind of kids any parent would be fortunate to have in their lives. They are respectful, appreciative, attached,and delightful young men. They create virtually no stress for us and only add to the joy of our lives. And of our twelve children, they are two of the oldest we have adopted.
For those who believe that adopting older children carries too much risk, these boys will challenge your stereotypes. And to think that if we had not stepped forward to make them a part of our lives one would have aged out of an orphanage in a poverty-stricken Latin American country and the other would still be in the impermanency of foster care.
I have to believe that our two boys are not unique, and that there are many hundreds of other older children waiting to be adopted who could bring deep, satisfying joy to committed, loving parents. They need parents to take the risk and give them the chances that permanency affords. While I am grateful to God tonight for the gift they are in our lives, I am troubled that there are others just like them in the system who continue to wait.
Many times in the past thirteen years the tears I have shed have come from disappointment, disillusionment and loss. But tonight, they are tears of pure, unrefracted joy. It almost makes the other kind of tears worth this moment in time.