Have you seen the movie “Instant Family” with Mark Wahlberg and Rose Bryne? It is the Hollywoodized version of fostering and adopting. Wahlberg and Bryne play new foster parents named Pete and Ellie who live in an idyllic community that looks like you literally walked into a Pottery Barn catalogue. Yards are neatly manicured and there is no litter, or even dirt, anywhere. Neither parent appears to work on any kind of regular basis, and yet miraculously there seems to be an abundance of money. Everyone has perfectly straight, white teeth and no one is overweight or has any visible disabilities.
Despite the movie not reflecting reality, I found myself loving it, especially since adoptive and fostering families are high on my list of people I admire the most.
Over the holidays I went to visit my brother John and his wife in San Diego. They have adopted one daughter (who is now almost 4 years old) and are in the process of adopting a second daughter who is 18 months old.
Of course real life compared to a Hollywood movie is more, well, real. You know, complicated, messy and multi-layered. But what the movie “Instant Family” did capture was the attraction of some people to try to make a difference in the lives of other people who are struggling with the basic necessities that enable them to live and to thrive: a home, love, and a sense of belonging.
And when it works, it is not a one sided relationship. It is not about adults giving charity to the poor, unfortunate children. There is an interdependence happening; an exchange of love and learning and growing. Both parties gain in the exchange. Both are better off because of their coming together.
What made me tear up in the movie theater and what warms my soul from the inside out while watching John’s new family gel in front of my eyes, is the same feeling I get about the work we do at Pathways Vermont. While Pathways Vermont doesn’t work with adoptive or fostering families, and the people we serve are adults, many of them were children in the system that did not get the lucky lotto draw of a forever family with parents like Pete and Ellie, or like my brother and his wife.
Pathways Vermont believes in learning and growing together with the people we serve. Belonging, connecting, and being there in community with one another through hard times and good times too. What is the point really, in life, if not to help each other along the way? For me, there is nothing more inspiring or heart-warming than being in my brother John’s kitchen when his new daughter, for no apparent reason, drops her little head onto her high chair tray with a thump, the way she sometimes does on to the floor– and John says softly, “It is ok honey. I’m here. You are safe. I am not going anywhere.”