It was our annual church Thanksgiving dessert night. The room was buzzing with conversation and laughter. There was constant discussion about which delectable confection was the one people had been waiting for all year! Most agreed it was Sally’s cheesecake!
Our very first foster child, Danita, was holding my hand as our turn was coming up to fill our plates. Her beautiful blue eyes were HUGE with anticipation and disbelief! She had never, in all of her seven-and-a-half years, seen ANYTHING like this! There were three long tables covered with desserts! Only desserts! There were pies and cakes and cookies and cupcakes and caramel corn and puddings and the list goes on! We had eaten dinner before we arrived and I told her she could have a little bit of LOTS of things so she was very, very excited!
Danita had been with us for a few months. We had learned a lot about each other in a short time. She loved to dress up and wear “fancy” clothes, so she was feeling pretty good about her outfit and her curled hair. (Styling hair is NOT my strong suit, so I was feeling pretty good too!) She bounced through the line with me exclaiming she was in dessert heaven! We sat down with a group of friends and she was laughing and eating all at once. It was a lighthearted and joyful time for our entire family. It was so good to see Danita like this, seemingly, without a care in the world – totally in the moment.
The tradition for the evening was to eat goodies, hang out with loved ones and share what we were thankful for. There was an open mic for anyone who was so inclined to come up and share. It was very spontaneous and casual.
During our Family Fun Night Karaoke sessions at home we had discovered how much Danita loved the microphone and the chance to be the center of attention. We had a blast during those times. Even the teens participated eventually! So it was no surprise when she wanted to take the stage on this night and tell everyone what she was thankful for. We really had no idea what she would say… she was 7, it could be any kind of a surprise! I thought it would be something like, “I am thankful for all of these desserts!” Thinking back, I probably should have checked with her first – but now I’m glad I didn’t.
Everyone in the small church knew we were foster parents and they accepted our kids with no questions and lots of love. As Danita climbed right up on the platform and excitedly took the microphone she was all smiles! Everyone in the room was smiling back and willing her to feel comfortable.
She looked around and without hesitation said, “My name is Danita and I am thankful for a car.” A hush fell over the room. No one was eating, every eye was on this precious little girl. She continued, “Before I came to this family, I never rode in a car. We always took the bus or walked everywhere. My feet always hurt.” With that she put the mic down and climbed off the stage. She was totally nonchalant, no pretense, no self-pity or manipulation – just a fact from her short life. Needless to say we were all a little stunned. There were tears streaming down the faces of the listeners. My other children were looking at me in shock. Slowly, the heavy pause in the room was ushered out with love by someone who stepped up and said, “Danita, thanks for sharing that with us. We are grateful for your car too, and we are glad you are here with us!” She beamed – and ate more pie.
That was a moment many people would never forget. It was hard for my family to imagine a little girl who lived in our medium-sized community having NEVER ridden in a car! We really had no idea, at this early stage in our foster parent journey, the things that would impact the lives of these children. Things we took for granted, thought of as basic necessities and rights, were far out of reach for many families. The impact was not just on their lives, but truly on ours. We’ve learned so much, and we have never been the same.
~ A Koinonia Foster Parent’s Voice