Sunday, December 8, 2013

From Rags to Riches

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One of the most common motifs in literature and cinema alike is that of rags to riches; stories that tell of a person rising from poverty to wealth. Indeed, those were the stories that captured my attention throughout my childhood years. Favorites included Cinderella, The Prince and the Pauper, and My Fair Lady (to name a few). Oh, and let's not forget Becky the scullery maid in A Little Princess. One of my absolute favorite literary moments is when she leaves her life of poverty and becomes a 'little princess' herself.

Those stories always resonated with me, though I am not quite sure why. As a child I wanted for nothing and had every opportunity afforded me. Yet I sill pondered what it would be like to experience such a dramatic change of fortune - or better yet - to be the cause of that change in the life of someone else.

So when my husband approached me with the idea of adopting I didn't give it a second thought. I responded with an immediate and absolute, "Yes!"

And that is where our adoption journey began.

Many were surprised when they heard we were adding to our family. We already had three biological daughters, the youngest of which was born with severe brain damage. As a result, she is what I like to call a forever-baby. She doesn't walk, talk, or even eat. Feeding tubes, shunts, and seizures are common topics of conversation in our house. To many, it appeared our plate was full. But what most don't realize is that while our life is a little different, it is also our normal.

So despite the shock and questions from onlookers, we started researching, knowing that somewhere out there was a child who belonged with us. It was such an interesting thought, to know that on some continent, in some country, was one child who was all alone, waiting. So I searched and searched until one day I saw this picture:

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Her smile captivated me. And her eyes - so full of life and excitement, despite the unfavorable circumstance she was in. I knew immediately she was the one.

***

Three weeks ago we traveled to Ethiopia where Elsa, age 6, joined our family. We arrived at the orphanage with a new outfit to dress her in - including some silver sparkle shoes reminiscent of Cinderella's glass slippers. She literally left her 'rags' behind and came to the States to find a bedroom fit for a princess awaiting her. But rags to riches it isn't about monetary wealth. At least not in this case. For Elsa it means a home; it means safety; it means opportunities to develop talents; it means having a family to call her own.

When I look at Elsa, I see something special - a spark, a light, limitless potential. I see a child who was born into dire circumstances, but regardless, chose to smile. She has a fighting spirit and the courage to face the world with confidence. I have rarely seen such strength and strong sense-of-self in a person. As I think towards the future I am excited to see what it holds for my Ethiopian princess. Who will she become? What will she achieve? Something great awaits her, I just know it. Indeed, this fairy tale is going to end with a happily ever after.

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