This week, the end of an amazing journey came to pass and a new and exciting one began. After a year and a half of working to bring home our adopted son from China, Michael Bennett (nicknamed Peanut), we stepped off an airplane in Austin with him in our arms and were greeted by family, friends, and a community. The feeling was unbelievable and an experience that has helped shape who I am today.
At six pounds and six months old, Michael was placed in my arms at an orphanage we had volunteered at in China those many months ago. Peggy and I had contemplated adoption for several years but I was admittedly reluctant – too old, too tired, too scared. However, the world has a mysterious way of opening up when you allow it to. In those hours of holding Michael, I understood that the need for someone in his life to love him, care for him, and keep him safe was too great for me to ignore. When we left that orphanage, we knew we needed to do everything we could to make him part of our family.
From that point on, the task of bringing Michael home involved countless individuals and parties, from our adoption agency to our friends who provided support to the wonderful doctors that offered medical advice and our guides who directed us in China. So many people rallied around a little boy they had never met, and I am forever indebted to each of them.
When we received our travel approval to get Michael, one of the things Peggy and I really wanted to do was share that experience with our kids. I am certain that the journey taken with MacKenna, Peyton and Hadley at our side had and will continue to have a profound impact on their lives. Simply experiencing that opportunity, understanding the struggle for so many people in our world and the challenge of the many abandoned and orphaned children will help shape who my kids are. I witnessed them rally around Michael, help care for his every need, and love him with zero reservations. I don’t believe I have ever been more proud as a father.
While in China, we were taken to the orphanage where Michael lived prior to adoption. I will never forget how stoic he was in my arms as we were guided through the facility. I could not help but wonder what emotions he was experiencing then. When we arrived on a particular floor and was taken to an infant and toddler wing, Michael began to straighten up in my arms. We approached a bay of windows and peering in, we viewed rows of cribs in well organized columns. All of the sudden Michael yelled out and pointed through the window. Immediately, several young children Michael’s age stood up in their cribs and waved back at my boy. One even blew a kiss. Michael had been in that room in one of those cribs only weeks earlier. While I was happy to have taken him from his bed, I was haunted by the many left on the other side of the glass, wondering if they, too, would find homes.
Since our adoption journey began, more than a handful of parents have approached us about the idea of adoption for their own family. I understand that adoption is not for everyone, but I do believe more than ever that family should be defined in a much broader sense than the traditional. I believe that our capacity to make a home for someone in need is greater than we realize. One orphan is too many. So many of us are so blessed and have so much to give while so many kids are longing for a family just to give them a home.
So the new journey begins.
The guy that swore off never changing another diaper after three kids is now knee deep in wipes and Pampers. The guy that focused on getting his three kids through college is thinking preschool again. And you know what? It’s all good. Michael Bennett has made my life more complete than ever, my family has come together with greater purpose and love, and little Peanut from a far off place has already given me more than could ever imagine.