It is amazing what kinds of events can transpire during the course of a single year. At this time last year, my wife, Melinda, and I were in the process of adopting our youngest son, Elliott. As we marked Independence Day last year, I took a few minutes in a post on our adoption blog to look ahead at what life might be like for our son as this would be the last July 4th he would spend without a family. (clarification: at the time, we did not know if we were adopting 1 or 2 children, and we did not know that Elliott would be the child God had chosen for us; we learned all of that in November once we arrived in Ukraine).
Now, we are celebrating July 4th, 2011 and Elliott has been home with us for a little more than 6 months. In many ways, it seems as though he has always been in our family, which is a good sign. But every now and then, Melinda and I think a little about what life was like in Ukraine and how that contrasts with life in the United States. Our little
Elliott, who is really starting to show his personality now, lived in a Soviet-era orphanage, complete with the requisite cinder-block walls and institutional feel. Elliott was well-loved and cared for there and we will always be grateful to his caretakers for what they did for him during the first months of his life. But, children aren’t meant to live in orphanages. They are meant to be a part of families who love them, care for them and provide for them.
On July 4, 2010, Elliott was just another child in a ward of a Ukrainian orphanage without a lot of hope in life. On July 4, 2011, he is a bright and vibrant child that is excelling in his development, chasing his brother and sister and delighting his parents with his laugh and his wonderful way of saying “helloooo!”
To me, this is the quintessential American story. A child, without family and without hope in his own land, is given a new chance in a new country. Today, Elliott will join us as we travel to the old State Capitol building in downtown Raleigh. He will stand with us as we listen to a reading of the Declaration of Independence. He will hear the music, see the colonial themed costumes and enjoy watching all of the people on the grounds. He will enjoy his lunch sitting on a blanket on the lawn outside on the Capitol grounds. He will enjoy eating homemade ice cream with friends. He will see fireworks for the first time ever as we watch, from a safe distance, in the town of Rolesville. And he will fall asleep in his own crib, safe and secure. This year, on Independence Day, Elliott is a little two-year old boy, growing up in America. Will he know the difference between last year and this year? Probably not. But we, his parents, will. And we are so thankful to have this charming and sweet little boy in our family.
Happy 4th of July everyone!