Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Love In Action

A couple of years ago, a family member was going through some changes. They really needed to get their life together. In the meantime, they had two children who needed to be taken care of.

This is my family. When one of us needs something, the rest of us are there.

Those two kids? Well, all it took was a phone call. The next day the kids were on a plane, headed to live with a niece of mine and her husband. There was no time to prepare, no time to think. My niece and nephew didn't ask for time to prepare or think. If I remember it right, the only thing they asked was, "What time does the plane get in?"

My niece and her husband are young people. They had a small home, two jobs and bills and worries like everyone else trying to make it these days. This young couple had already made plans to have my sister live with them while she recuperated from surgeries and other medical concerns. This alone was going to be a rest-of-your-life commitment.

With two young kids and an older relative to care for, did these young people buckle under the pressure? Did they ever stop and wait for a pat on their backs? Nope. Know what they did? They rented out their small home and went out and bought a bigger house. They got cute beds for the kids and a stair-lift for my sister. They re-arranged work schedules to accommodate parent-teacher meetings and doctors' appointments. They traded out one vehicle for another to better suit this new situation. Suddenly, instead of buying and cooking and cleaning for two, they had to up the budgets for groceries, utilities, clothing and transportation. Sometimes, they had to give up vacations and personal time. Without preparation, they had to learn to deal with sibling squabbles, pre-teen mood swings and the all-around pain-in-the-ass situations that come to people with kids.

For two years, these wonderful people absorbed family into their family. They never looked at the emotional weight of anything, but always saw the love in it all. Without thinking of it any other way, they bragged to their friends that they were lucky to have family together and around them. Instead of complaining about buying school clothes and supplies, they made an adventure of it. Instead of complaining about trips to the hospital and therapy sessions, they felt pleased to have a full table of family at dinner time. They made a joy of planning birthday and holiday celebrations. They loved having the opportunity to go on field trips and have kids over for sleep-overs.

These people never once looked at what they had taken on as a burden. They just saw the joy in every single thing.

I don't know of many other families who have members like this. I don't know of many other personal examples of love in action.

Sure, people talk a lot about loving you or thinking of you or having you in their prayers... But I have seen those words acted out every day for over two years.

Tomorrow the children are going to be leaving to reunite with their dad. He got his life together. He's ready for his children and, because of my niece and nephew, the children are ready for their dad. They didn't have to go into "the system." They didn't have to be with strangers. They didn't have to be in exile for the last couple of years. They were always with people who loved them from the blood. They got to be with and within family.

Mothers and fathers who have children and love them are doing what they are supposed to do. Their sacrifices are their chosen responsibility. People who parent children who aren't their own have done so much more. They have loved and sacrificed when they didn't have to. You are supposed to love and sacrifice for your own, but when you do it for someone else's children, you've done something so amazing that it's hard to describe.

My niece and nephew don't want to be thanked. I know them well enough to know that, but I want to thank them anyway. I want them to know how glad I am that they are who and what they are. I am so proud of them. I am so thankful for them. I hope that everyone, at some time in their lifetime, will be blessed to know people like my niece and nephew.