"The difference between a helping hand and an outstretched palm is a twist of the wrist."
— Laurence Leamer
I stumbled across this quote last week. It whispered to my heart. So I wrote it down and posted it on my computer screen. But I didn't understand why until I met the family featured on today's front page story.
Angie Renick-Hayes and her husband, Jake Hayes, are in the process of adopting into their family a group of five siblings from Washington state. The children, who range in age from 17 months to 11 years, will arrive in about 10 days.
Every person I spoke with at Jackson County's Child Services Department expressed deep gratitude that this Medford family would create a home for these children.
"I can't tell you how hard it is to find families that will take in sibling groups," said Doug Mares, director of the human services agency for Jackson and Josephine counties.
"And to take a family of five," Mares continued. "Well, that's just miraculous. What a blessing."
With a flip of their collective wrists, Angie, Jake and their three biological children, Indianna, 13, Finneas, 10, and Attikus, 8, agree that adding these five individuals to their family unit is indeed a blessing — for themselves.
Snuggled together on their overstuffed couch in their cozy Medford home, the family discussed their hopes and concerns about the changes to come.
Indianna is finally going to have a sister — or four. Atticus will have a brother a bit nearer in age to wrestle. Finneas will have a sibling in his class at school, one of the new sisters. He's not so sure about the shift in girl-boy ratio.
"We're going to be outnumbered," Finneas says, rolling his eyes at Atticus.
Indianna just smiles. It's a big, beautiful smile.
The parents anticipate a few bumps along the way as they merge this menagerie of eight youngsters. But they also see it as a grand adventure for all. They both come from large families. And adding to their own is both a way to give and to receive
Big families. Big lives. Big love.
"We just love to scoop people up," says Angie.
As Jake and Angie discuss their own history, I can't help but smile. I grew up on the same block with five generations of family members. And I was the indulged baby of the entire extended family.
In addition to my own two siblings, there were nine cousins and an assortment of aunts, uncles and grandparents. There was also a plethora of scooped-up people we also considered family.
I can't imagine growing up any other way. Being the family's mascot made my childhood magical. I only wish it had lasted longer. But by the time I was about 10 or so, my siblings and most of my cousins had flown the coop. As each peeled off to attend college, join the service or get hitched in holy matrimony, my world shrank. And I grieved.
Why were they leaving? I wasn't done playing Kick the Can, Capture the Flag or the host of other fun street games. I wasn't done learning from them. I wasn't done with any of it.
But I still had my parents, my classmates and my neighborhood pals. And my missing family members returned for vacations and shore leave. The married ones also returned — bearing the next generation of our tribe. Life is good. Life goes on. For us lucky kids.
I've said several times over the years that every child, born innocent, deserves perfect parents. I can't imagine what it might be like when circumstances beyond any child's control causes them to be pulled from everything and everyone they know and love. Heartbreaking.
That these adoptive siblings will be able to stay together? Extraordinary. That Angie and Jake spent three years searching for the perfect fit for their family, and found them? Amazing. That they know the potential for these kids to bring as much joy into their lives as they hope to bring into theirs? That's understanding what happens when you twist your wrist.
Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.