If you could go back in time and have a conversation with 11-year-old me, at some point in the conversation baseball would have come up. Eleven-year-old me dreamed of being a major league baseball star. It wasn’t just a pipe dream like all kids had when they were that age. It was bigger.
I would have told you my full-fledged plan to work my way into the starting lineup of my high school team. I would explain how I was going to try out for the walk-on draft for the Cincinnati Reds the summer after my senior year. And then (hopefully) land a spot in the lower Single-A or AA farm system. If that didn’t work, I’d surely have a scholarship to a top-notch Division I school of my choice.
Not only could I articulate this at 11 years old, I had it written down. Sketched out in a notebook I kept, complete with stadium diagrams, imaginary starting lineups, and statistics. Yep — big dream!
I wanted to be a legend on the diamond. I studied my hometown hero, Barry Larkin, and dreamed of one day starting for the Cincinnati Reds. I emulated Chris Sabo snagging sharp grounders down the third base line. I matched every move Eric Davis made as he stepped to the plate.
Ask me then and I would have told you: I want to be a star … I want to be rich … I want to be famous.
A different path.
That’s not the story my life would go on to tell. I ended up opting out of baseball by my senior year of high school. After three years of riding the bench, I looked toward other things. After high school I went to a small Christian college on the westside of Cincinnati with barely a sports program. One year they decided to start up their baseball program, and I tried out. But the flame had gone out. After a few practices, I decided to hang up my glove and cleats for good.
Many would look at that and see the disappointment of dreams not coming true. After all, I had worked all those years to become the legend I had dreamed of becoming, for what? On the outside it looked like nothing. But what I didn’t realize until years later was how perfect the story that was being told through my life really was.
And it had nothing to do with fortune, fame, or accolades.
In the spring of 2004, just five years after I was married, my wife looked at me and told me of a woman who was about to lose her two children into the foster care system. She suggested that we get our license in order to care for them. I hesitated. At that point, we were the parents to one perfect baby through adoption, and all seemed fair in love and war. Plus, I had always heard horror stories about foster parenting. What I didn’t realize was that this woman had actually personally asked my wife and I to care for her children. So, in-spite of my hesitation, I agreed and we fast-tracked through the licensing procedures. Sometimes you just have to step off the edge and ask questions later. We jumped.
Legends and legacies.
Twelve years later — we’ve never looked back. As we stand on the other side of this massive season of our life, we both agree: we wouldn’t change a thing. We ended up fostering close to 30 children, and six of them stayed with us forever. Foster parenting is one of the hardest things we’ve ever done. It has nearly taken the life out of us. We have been to the darkest places of parenting, the darkest places of human thinking, and have the scars on our hearts (and our arms) to prove it. We’ve lived through CPS investigations, rude and hurtful IEP meetings at our kids’ schools, and the overreaction of a case manager who was trying to make an example out of us.
We’ve taken our son, who suffers from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and acts out violently, to residential treatment, and grieved the drug abuse of another child. We became grandparents at age 38 and are now 14 years behind on sleep. We’ve had our hearts ripped out, our pockets emptied, and our souls drained of energy.
We’ve lived to tell about it all and, from our vantage point, we wouldn’t change a thing. Nor do we believe that we could have scripted a story any more beautiful or perfect. Call it a perfectly imperfect story. I love these precious children I’ve been blessed with more than life itself. I would bleed myself dry for any of them. Even though I didn’t biologically create them, they hold the largest real estate in my heart.
No, I didn’t become a major league baseball star. I never heard the crowd roar as my name was introduced. And I’m pretty much a million shy of being a millionaire. But my life is filled with more purpose than I could imagine. I have foster care to thank for that.
I once heard a public speaker say this. “Legends have followings. They have big statistics, and their faces are splashed on every magazine and billboard from here to kingdom come. Legacies, on the other hand, are nameless and faceless human beings who quietly change the world.”
Foster parents are legacies. Loving children unconditionally changes the world and the future.
I want to be known as a legacy.
May is National Foster Care Month, aimed to raise awareness of foster care and encourage others to get involved in the lives of these youth.More On