When Jessie first came to live with us, I was scared that I would go to register him for sports or school and people would ask me questions that I didn’t know the answer to. I wanted us to blend in with the other families so I actually practiced over and over again.
He was born in 1998. At Tulsa Regional Hospital. Like Benjamin, he weighed right around 8 pounds. He’s crazy about apples but hates apple cider.
It wasn’t that I was ashamed of adoption or of his past. It’s just that I didn’t know how much of his story he wanted to share – or whom he wanted to share it with. I figured those were his decisions, when he was ready.
Even now, years later, I find myself tongue-tied. That’s why I didn’t say more when Mr. Wickham gave Jessie a dollar for entertaining and exercising his golden retriever.
“He’s a really good kid,” Mr. Wickham said, tipping his head toward Jessie. “And he’s great with Abby,” he added, just as Jessie tossed Abby’s toy for another round of fetch.
“He is great,” I told Mr. Wickham, “It’s nice to come out to the farm and watch him relax. He can be noisy and run around,” I said, trailing off because I wasn’t sure how much to say.
While Jessie played with Abby, I picked tomatoes and kale and flowers. Other families came and went, all of us part of the Wickham Farms CSA. I could hear Jessie laughing across the field.
For Mr. Wickham, the compliment was a small thing. A kindness that came naturally.
But for Jessie and I, it was an acknowledgment of the good inside. A respite from lectures about missing homework assignments and running in the house. A moment where he was just an average kid, not one who has nightmares and more emotional baggage than people four times his age.
Just an instant where someone saw Jessie as Jessie – joyful and playful.
We all need that, regardless of age. Regardless of background. We know we need the people in our lives to stand with us and for us. But occasionally, it sure is nice to have people who aren’t as close to us offer a kind word, too.
We can all do that for one another. We can notice the good. And we can make a world of difference.