by Mary Lou Edgar.
Many of you know that I worked in adoption and foster care for my entire career. May is Foster Care Month and I thought I would share how my work relates to my spiritual life.
I knew I wanted to adopt children when I was very young. I thought about it constantly! When I discovered The Story of the Starfish, I felt like I found my motivation. In case you are not familiar with the story, here is a brief synopsis. A man was walking along the beach on a beautiful day. As he walked, he could see a person going back and forth between the surf’s edge and the beach. As he approached, he could see that there were hundreds of starfish stranded on the sand as a result of the natural action of the tide. The man was struck by the futility of the task. There were too many starfish, and many were going to perish. He approached the person picking up starfish one by one and throwing them into the surf. He said, “You must be crazy. There are thousands of miles of beach covered with starfish. You can’t possibly make a difference.” The person looked at the man, picked up one more starfish, and threw it back into the ocean, saying “It sure made a difference for that one!”
The Indian poet, Tagore, wrote “Every child comes with the message that God is not discouraged of us.”
When I think of the starfish, I think of being one of God’s starfish. He keeps pushing us back into the water. I also think of how many abused and neglected children are living in our country right now. There are over 400,000 children in foster care in the United States. Each year approximately 40,000 of those kids age out of foster care when they reach 18. They need a family. How many of us were ready to be on our own when we were 18? Children today have many more things, but not what they really need – unconditional love, structure, and stability that only a family can provide. These kids need what Lydia in the first reading this week offered – a place to stay.
Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not.” Many have said that this scripture referred to all who are poor and disadvantaged. I learned that all parents of children who are struggling struggled in the same way. Generationally, both positive and negative family traits can be passed. I prefer to think of Jesus holding children and having them crowd around Him, loving them, and being able to see the positive attributes each child has. As I did my work in child welfare, I came to see strength in every child and also in their parents. We did not all have the same advantages, so we did not make the same choices. Think, if you will, of what it might have been like if there were hundreds of people throwing starfish into the water. It would have made an even bigger difference, but it would not mitigate the importance of each one. Maybe that is what Jesus is telling us. In our hearts we are all still children. We need Jesus to love and support us, helping us make good decisions so we can live our lives in a way that is pleasing to God.
Not everyone can foster or adopt a child. My husband and I were blessed that we could. But we can all pray for the children who are waiting. We can support agencies who support our children. The Episcopal Church Women at SsAM are working to do that right now. Volunteer to help! Help families who have adopted or are fostering – particularly older children – and need some additional support. Each child in the world belongs to each of us and to God. They are all our children. They are our hope for the future and right now, they need us.
Suffer the little children to come onto me and forbid them not: for such Is the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:14
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Lou Edgar, MSS, is a clinical social worker who founded A Better Chance for Our Children, an adoption and foster care agency that works to find permanent homes for children in the foster care system. Mary Lou was the Executive Director of ABCFOC, but she is now retired. She graduated from Neumann University and Bryn Mawr School of Social Work and Social Research. She and her husband joined SsAM in 2021.