We may not always like it, but our lives display the influences of people whose paths have crossed with ours over the years. From family to friends and even acquaintances, the way that people around us live their lives will impact how we choose to live ours. Just reading this paragraph will likely stir memories of the people who have most impacted your life.
I grew up in a suburban area of South Manchester. I had an awesome Mum and Dad (still have my awesome Dad!) and a fab little sister. We lived in a semi detached home on a wide tree lined street. We moved there just as I was about to turn seven years of age, after seven years of moving frequently, both home and school.
My parents took us along to the local Anglican Church, where my aunt and uncle were active members. My sister and I grew up in that church and, for the formative years of our life, we had an extended church family that I remember with joy and fondness. I grew. I was challenged. I laughed. I made memories. I made mistakes. I had my corners rubbed off. I learned lessons, sometimes the hard way!
There was a wonderful family there, who had, I think, six birth children, along with a fab young lady with Down’s Syndrome who they fostered (and who they have now adopted). They were also foster carers for other children, specialising in children and young people who were hard to place or those who had life limiting conditions.*
Their living example was an incredible challenge and blessing to my life. I look back now in my early forties and recognise the powerful influence their family, lifestyle and choices had on me during my childhood and teens. They were the first people who demonstrated the lived out power of Micah chapter 6 verse 8:
“He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice,
And to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God.”
They were a powerful testimony of what I believed God was calling me to from a young age.
To work with those who could not always advocate for themselves.
To include those who would not naturally always find themselves included.
To fight for those who did not always have a voice.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have strong opinions about the ‘saviour complex’ that is found at times in evangelical church circles, around the ‘orphan’. Our little girl is not an orphan. She has experienced loss that I have never experienced and struggle to fully understand.
But the role modelling that I observed and experienced all those years ago continues to bear fruit in me to this day. The voluntary work I chose as a teen. The work experience I did during school. The ‘Service Task’ I chose for my Wednesday afternoons at Sixth Form College. The year out choices I made after my undergrad degree. The post grad course I settled on that eventually led to my choice of career as a Children’s Occupational Therapist.
Obviously Mr Six and I have walked our adventures together for the last eighteen years. Having a family has always been Our Choice. Adopting was Our Decision. Together. Mr Six has never met this influential family. And yet their legacy is strong in my life.
I will always be thankful to that family for their witness, their faith, their absolute kindness and their joy in doing family.
*I think I have the facts correct. Apologies to those mentioned if I have mistakenly got anything wrong!