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Adoptive mom Nicole Johnson ponders our call to take that same responsibility of caring for all our brothers and sisters on earth.

I stood in the doorway and watched her go, wondering how she was handling the huge spectrum of emotions that were undoubtedly flooding her heart. She was trying hard to focus on the positives; the baby girl in my arms had never been a part of her plan. Two and a half months earlier, her younger sister had given birth to the small beauty and, although well-intentioned and in love, was quickly overwhelmed with the reality of claiming the title of mother at the young -- and vulnerable -- age of 19. As the big sister, she had stepped in, taken her niece into her heart and home, yet realized, despite her love for her, this little one didn’t fit into her stage of life either. 

So there we stood; baby girl snug in my arms and her selfless aunt walking back to the life she once knew, hopeful the decision she had agonized over for so long was the right one. I’ll never forget waving to her as she drove away, smiling and giddy, as I proclaimed, “OK, then. Thanks again!” I turned to my mom standing behind me and we just burst into laughter, struck by the near absurdity of what had just transpired. I mean, I had literally just been given life and wow, if it didn’t come in one of the cutest packages I had ever seen. What is the appropriate thing to say in that situation? How exactly does one say thank you for such a gift? 

It’s true what they say about children who come into your family through adoption. You can, and do, love them as if you had given birth to them yourself. I’ve had many moments when I’ve even momentarily forgotten our daughter doesn’t share the same genes as her father and me. However, the understanding of the love her birth family has for our little girl keeps me ever vigilant - even ten years later - that I have a responsibility to raise my daughter with everything I’ve got. I want them to trust in the depth of my love for her and never question the life-giving decision they made all those years ago. 

Isn’t this how each one of us should feel about the attention and love we owe to the life given to us from God? He chose to give us, quite literally, the life of His Son so we could in turn live forever; all eternity in a more beautiful space and place any of us can imagine. I find this so very difficult to internalize, to really absorb and to live the full gift of this truth. 

Taking it one step further, isn’t this how we should feel about each one of our brothers and sisters? Not just those that share the same genes, but those that are part of our family because they walk the same earth as we do; those who have different hair color, different builds, different skin color, different socio-economic status - and yes, those with different religious beliefs, sexual orientations, and political leanings. What if. What if we got up each morning truly feeling the responsibility to take care of each one of our brothers and sisters? From our peers and coworkers to those we casually pass on the street? God is the birth father placing His sons and daughters into our hands, trusting and hoping that we will respect and care for every last one of His beloved children. 

Loving our daughter has been easy, so very easy. Raising her has not. Sometimes I think her extra chromosome is really an extra dose of stubbornness. While it serves her well and helps her push past any limits the world tries to force on her, it often requires a level of patience only constant prayer can bring -- and lots of deep breathing -- and a fair amount of chocolate. The level of difficulty in loving our neighbor as ourselves is easy in theory, yet often feels impossible when doing so disrupts the rhythm of our own comfortable lifestyle. This reality has perhaps never been before us with such clarity as our current situation affords. 

The adoption of our daughter was not without fear. Welcoming the tiny stranger into our hearts and homes was unlike anything we could have imagined or prepared for. It truly was a process of putting one foot in front of the other and just opening our hearts to God’s perfect plan. When I look into those little brown eyes and feel the softness of her skin and the love that seeps from every pore of her body, I thank God for the courage to take the risk. 

It leaves me to wonder ... what if? What if, we each took a small step forward in taking on the responsibility -- and honor -- of loving our brothers and sisters and ensuring the life God placed into our arms was not given in vain?

What if we got up each morning truly feeling the responsibility to take care of each one of our brothers and sisters? #catholicmom

Copyright 2020 Nicole Johnson
Image: Polina Tankilevich (2020), Pexels