Many of you are aware that my husband Kevin was born to a teenage foster child on the inner city streets of Rochester area in Upstate Western New York. He has no clue who his sperm donor was.
His earliest memories were NOT of a loving two parent home filled with laughter and music.
His earliest memories are of being hungry, stealing candy from corner stores, walking barefoot on glass in alleys alone at age three, being given rum in his bottle to knock him out so mama could go party, being locked in closets, playing the penny arcade in local bars, and the police finally breaking in the door finding him alone at age four – the night they finally took him away. He has no memories of anyone reading to him before age five.
But he does have a memory of one particular Christmas, the Christmas when he was four, when a group of faceless adults gave him a My Buddy Doll.
That one silly doll meant nothing to those adults. It was just a good deed on their check list of good deeds that one year in the mid 1980s.
It was just one child.
Four year old Kevin had that doll with him in the back of the police car when he was taken away.
Kevin had no pants on.
He was hungry.
He was afraid.
And then he puked.
Puked right in the back of that police car.
Right beside his My Buddy Doll.
He carried that doll to the home of Dean and Donna Cole the next day when they accepted a foster placement for a small four year old named Joseph Lee Barnes.
The Cole Family – an amazing family who fostered a number of children over the years in their Upstate NY 1890s farmhouse.
Joseph Lee Barnes was the only foster they officially adopted. He was thirteen years old and had now been with them as a foster for over eight years. To reflect his new identity, he chose to legally change his name to Kevin Joseph Cole.
Just like the Coles changed his life by giving a random child a chance.
And he never forgot that My Buddy Doll he once thought of as his “best friend”.
That one random charity gift given one random Christmas by faceless adults who will never know his story.
According to ALL statistics, Kevin should be in jail now. Or hooked on drugs. Or living on the streets.
He didn’t “deserve” the chance he was given.
He didn’t do anything to “win” it.
Yet, good hearted adults stepped up and stepped out – and their influence changed the entire course of his life.
They didn’t “pray” about it from the comfort of their homes while turning a blind eye.
They didn’t scoff and say “well she shouldn’t have had that child!”
They didn’t question whether a four year old should have food in his belly.
Or why his birth mother “didn’t provide”.
They didn’t look at him and call him a loser and say he didn’t deserve the trophy, like one popular sports coach did when he slammed children nationwide in a recent press conference.
THEY. JUST. GAVE.
And they gave unconditionally.
I thought of Kevin’s life story this morning while I was with the Junior League of Columbia, Inc. working to sort and package Christmas gifts for children who’s parents have reached out to The Salvation Army of the Midlands.
And maybe, just maybe, in the midst of all this chaos and black garbage bags, there is one small gift in there that may enter a child’s life and help them, too, overcome a hard moment in life.
One can hope, right?