Story envy, courtesy of the New York Times

Story envy, courtesy of the New York Times November 15, 2013

I’ll just come out and say it: I wish I had written this story.

Well done, New York Times, from the headline to the ending. Readers, pour yourself a glass of milk, grab a chocolate-chip cookie (trust me, it’s vital to the enjoyment and proper digestion of this piece) and prepare to be satisfied in a way few first-person stories on Christian adoption are able to please.

Back? OK, good. Let’s review good journalism, the craft of complete storytelling and the art of making a long story seem short.

Misty and her husband, Jon, arrived at a house near Denver one day several years ago to pick up the two boys who would become their sons. A dirt yard led to a screen door dangling from its hinges. Inside, grime coated the linoleum steps to the living room, where a kind, if overwhelmed, single foster mother introduced Misty and Jon to Shon, 2 ½ years old, and his 9-month-old brother, Cory. She gave the couple a tiny suitcase with a broken zipper, a few borrowed clothes — some too big, others too small — and a piece of advice: Don’t touch Shon’s head or lift your hands near him. He will cower. Then she handed Jon a huge bag of frozen fish sticks. The kids love them, she said.

In weaving together a story on adoption through foster care, practicality demands that children be the centerpiece. Sensitivity, however, insists on delicacy. The balance is struck in the details, which are so rich and varied that I feel as though I’m walking with the four benevolent parents featured through the peaks and valleys of their journey to fulfill a calling from God.

Yes, the Times says it: A calling from God. And they back it up:

Still, money is tight. Misty and Jon forgo big vacations; they rarely eat out; they cook lots of tacos, mac and cheese and soups; and many of their kids are doubled up in the family’s five-bedroom rental house. “There are days when I’m completely overwhelmed, and I wonder if we made the right decision,” Misty acknowledged. “If we really knew what we were getting into, none of us would do it in the moment. But I would do it over and over again.” And that, she said, is because of her faith — the thing that propelled her into this in the first place. “God,” she said, “doesn’t make mistakes.”

The public service aspect of this story can’t be overstated. It’s rich in resources: names of agencies and organizations, support groups and media outlets that encourage and offer services for Christian foster parenting and adoption (a topic that has been making lots of headlines lately).

The story also touches on the tricky tightrope of special-needs care, mental-health issues and fetal drug/alcohol exposure. Names are changed for privacy, but this doesn’t really dilute the circumstances or hinder the progression of the piece.

Maureen suspected that David’s little brother, Ernesto, an impish ball of energy and charm with large brown eyes and long eyelashes, was exposed to drugs in utero. He struggled with sensory issues. One day he wrapped his torso in a roll of duct tape and, on another, covered his head in Vaseline. Most upsetting were Ernesto’s outbursts of anger. Almost every dinner seemed to revolve around his screaming fits. He hit Maureen and grabbed her hair with both hands so that she couldn’t move. He threw a car seat at a babysitter. And he bit one of Maureen’s daughters when she tried to hug him. This was a new land of parenting.

I don’t often forward stories to friends, it just isn’t my style. But I sent this one to a family who has fostered several children and adopted the last two that were part of their family. I also sent it to a family member who has her own incredible story of infant adoption.

What’s missing? Maybe a tie-in with National Adoption Day, which is Nov. 23.  It’s not only a great read, but a worthy re-read.

Can I get an Amen?

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