There is a young woman, Cindy, with whom I work, who had this true story (the one below, not the one in the picture) published in a "Chicken Soup for the Soul" book. The foster mom written about is well known to me, too, and lives a mile from our house.
Having raised adopted children, I have often wondered what it has been like for them, at different times. But the story resonates with me also on a theological level, which I mention after the quote.
A SECOND CHANCE
I grew up as a foster child from the age of eight. Unlike most children I know, I never really had a biological mother. I never got to experience the unconditional love and wonderment a mother gives her child. So growing up was a bit harder on me that on most other children. A drastic change came suddenly when I was in the eleventh grade. I was now in my second foster home and had been there for the past five years. I was surrounded by a warm and caring family. But still something pained me deeply. I felt "out of place." I wasn't her birth child, so I remained distant, not allowing myself to love her as much as I could.
In one night, things changed for the better and forever. I was doing homework while waiting for the rest of the family to return home from their events. It was a daily routine. I spent most of my nights by myself finding things to keep me busy. As I was reading a paragraph for English I heard the closing of the back door and my foster mom calling for me. I walked into the kitchen where she was holding a hardcover children's book that she had borrowed from work. "I want you to read this," she said excitedly. "It's absolutely wonderful." She handed me the book, and I glanced at it with curiosity. "The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. I was just about to question her when she smiled at me. "Trust me. You'll love it!"
Reluctantly I grabbed a stool and made myself comfortable at the counter and began to read the book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a touching story of a raccoon mom who places a kiss in the palm of her child's hand to remind him that if ever he should get scared he just has to press his Kissing Hand to his cheek. That way he can always remember that his mommy loves him. I wondered why my foster mom asked me to read it. But I shrugged off the unknown answer and headed back to my room to complete my unfinished homework.
Later that night, I was sitting at the same spot where I had read the book and talking with Mom when suddenly she did something totally unexpected. She ever so gently took my hand and put a warm loving kiss in the center of my palm. She then quietly closed my hand and held it between hers and spoke words that I had dreamt of hearing for so long. "Whenever you get scared or sad, remember that your mommy loves you."
As the tears began to form in my eyes, I began to understand, and so I smiled a smile that touched the very depth of my once-wounded heart. I truly do have a mother. No she wasn't biological, but she was mine just the same.
The story touches me also in this way: when one becomes a member of a family other than by a natural birth, another event may be extremely helpful to make the new member know that they belong and are completely accepted, such as this little ceremony of the kiss on the palm.
It makes me think of how we Lutherans see sacraments, how we know that we belong and are completely accepted. In both stories, the adoptive parent takes the initiative to make a promise and seals it with a physical event. I don't know, it seems kind of analogous to me. If I'm not entirely sure about my relationship with God, I have his promises and sacraments to make me sure.