by Ed Harpring
November is one of my favorite times of year. Why? Fall, Thanksgiving and family. The month begins with a cool crispness in the air and the myriad of emerging fall colors delighting us with their increasing intensity. The end of the month brings Thanksgiving and the once a year Feast that calls us to give thanks for the many special people in our lives.
Most of us have been blessed to be part of a family, so we enjoy and give gratitude for our spouses, our children, our parents, sibling and close friends. There’s nothing much better than sharing delicious Thanksgiving comfort food and long overdue warm conversations with family members and friends. And while every family has its ups and down, there is a sense of belonging that forms our identity. The sense of belonging to family is a universal longing based on our inward desire for something greater than ourselves that we are part of. St. John Paul in an Apostolic Exhortation on the Family, Familiaris Consortio succinctly stated that the family is “a communion and community of persons where love is the source and the constant impetus for welcoming, respecting and promoting each one of its members in his or her lofty dignity as a person, that is, as a living image of God.“
According to Karyn Hall, PH.D, “Having a sense of belonging is a human need, just like the need for food and shelter. Feeling that you belong is most important in seeing value in life and in coping with intensely painful emotions. Some find belonging in a church, some with friends, some with family, and some on Twitter or other social media. Some see themselves as connected only to one or two people. Others believe and feel a connection to all people the world over, to humanity. Some struggle to find a sense of belonging and their loneliness is physically painful for them.”
November is also National Adoption Month providing a time to reflect on the gift of family, but also to remember that we are called to “bring justice to the fatherless (the orphans).” For orphans and children in foster care who have been separated from their families, these feeling of being disconnected can be overwhelming and sometimes can lead to despair or depression. The Catholic Bishops remind us that “welcoming a child, through adoption, is an act of faith as well as an act of love.” Through the loving gift of adoption, children who need a family, can rebuild their sense of identity and their sense of belonging. In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis asserts “Adopting a child is an act of love, offering the gift of a family to someone who has none.”
Even those who have been successfully adopted, struggle at times with reconciling feelings about their biological parents with their adoptive parents. And that’s why family is so necessary.
Family life, whether biological or not, inherently, unites, and satisfies our need to belong and to be needed and appreciated, simply for who we are.
Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful for adoptive parents, but also to remember the sacrifice of the natural parents who were open to life and yet willing to put the needs of an unborn child first. Perhaps, this Thanksgiving, we can make room in our hearts, and maybe even at our dinner table, for a child waiting to be adopted, or for a single mother who has placed her child with and adoptive family. The following poem reveals the loving sacrifices from both the adoptive parents and biological parents, and the in this case, the gifts of both “mothers.”
Legacy Of An Adoptive Child
Once there were two women who never knew each other.
One you do not remember, the other you call mother.
Two different lives, shaped to make your one.
The first became your guiding star, the second became your sun.
The first gave you life and the second taught you to live it.
The first gave you a need for love, and the second was there to give it.
One gave you a nationality, the other gave you a name.
One gave you a seed of talent, the other gave you an aim.
One gave you emotions, the other calmed your fears.
One saw your first sweet smile, the other dried your tears.
One placed you for adoption that’s all that she could do.
The other prayed for a child and God led her straight to you.
And now you ask me, through your fears,
the age-old question unanswered throughout the years.
Heredity or environment, which are you the product of?
Neither, my darling neither.
Just a precious human being from two different kinds of love.
~ Author Unknown ~