I can remember just like it was yesterday walking into the decorated, empty room we had gotten ready for our soon to be adopted son. I remember curling up on the bed, hugging the stuffed monkey we’d bought him and wishing that it was my son. I remember wondering what he was doing at that very moment… wondering if he felt loved and safe. I thought about all the moments he had lived already that I would never fully know about. As a mama, to not know all the answers to the questions that I’m sure will be asked some day is heart wrenching. I remember the ache of just longing for my precious little boy to be with me…wrapped up in my arms.
I remember that time seemed to stand still as we waited for phone calls, paperwork, travel dates. It felt like all the years of the adoption process and the waiting would never end.
Flash forward to a few weeks ago. I am sitting next to my son in his first grade class listening to him talk about how he used to live in Africa. He says it’s so sad that so many people have to drink dirty water just like he did. He tells about how his baby brother died from drinking dirty water. I fix my eyes on the floor as they well up with tears. All I can think is that it could have been him. It would have been him. My throat is thick as I say how blessed we are to live in a country where we likely don’t have to walk more than 20 feet in our houses to find clean, good drinking water. I sit and watch my son speak about his past…about HIS story. We take turns going back and forth talking and trying to help the kids understand what children just like them have to drink every day and what they must do to get it. I can see him remembering the very things he is speaking of as the words tumble out of his mouth. I think about how Tariku literally means “his story” and I smile. Aren't all our lives stories? Isn't all the pain, the good, the struggle, the hope just begging to be told?
I remember crying many tears in his empty room just over two years ago, longing for my son to be home with me. And now the tears flow freely as I sit next to him and see how his story has shaped his heart so beautifully. It really is true - our pain, our mistakes…they don’t define us. They shape us. Tariku’s difficult past isn't who he is. It’s a part of his story. Just like him being loved and treasured and valued is a part of his story. He inspires me. He shows me that we choose how we respond to the good, the bad and the ugly. He is choosing to take a terrible life circumstance and use it to help others. He is showing me what healthy vulnerability looks like even at age 7. No hiding. No fear. No shame. He is who he is. And that, my friends, is simply beautiful.
*Tariku is halfway to his goal of raising $5,000 for his clean water project through Charity:Water. If you’d like to be involved, you can go HERE to donate.