My third of four assignments over 7 years to complete the cancellation of my huge student loans was at an elementary school in an upper-class white community in San Diego. Busing was being used at the time to integrate San Diego City Schools. Once again, I had a small class of “emotionally disturbed and learning disabled” students. Reviewing this now, I realize what a champion I have been my entire life for those whose voices are not heard; as I know that reality intimately from my own childhood.
Of the students in that class at Bird Rock Elementary, one stood out from the moment we both arrived – Willie, an African American foster child who was so desperately trying to find his way in a world that was not working for him. He rode a bus for nearly an hour each morning to come to school in a white community of privilege. Of course, he did not fit – and he let us all know. Often, he would get off that bus from “southeast San Diego” and immediately cry for help by acting out, often climbing a tree in the playground backyard to escape from where he did not fit. I loved Willie from the moment we met. Together we did our best to make a system that was not working for so many, work for him and others.
Months into our connection, I visited his foster mom. I immediately loved her and her phenomenal heart. She had, if I recall correctly, at least 10 foster children, all African American as was she. Small living space and small resources – huge heart and huge love. I remembering wanting to move in with her and help…
After more months, I spoke to her about adopting Willie. I had conversations with the appropriate governmental agencies. I applied. I supplied financial and personal records of support. After what seemed like an eternity, the San Diego Country Adoption Department finally responded to me: No. When I inquired why: “Because none of your personal references are in support of this adoption; no one in your family or circle of friends will endorse this.” None of those people who I believed to be dear family and friends ever spoke to me about his, not then or later; just a silent NO. I had no idea then how to respond, or turn into the conversation. I did not adopt Willie. I have always regretted that, and not somehow being able to explain it all to an 8-year-old little boy at the time.
Willie is now a grown and apparently a happy, well-functioning adult. We have found each other on FB; we have shared our personal cell phone numbers. I just now sent him a text, wondering if we might finally reconnect when I return to San Diego at the end of this month to bring my Liberian son Moses to college in America. Whoever would have thought??
And he just responded, immediately! OMG joy! We will reconnect after decades once I am back in America in a couple of weeks. He wants to see me and to meet Moses. It’s a God-thing.
There is something so much bigger going on… from Geneva, IL to a global citizen blessed to work all over the world for decades; from Willie to Moses decades later…
WE are indeed one human family, all connected. Praying WE will all realize that one day, soon.