A Blood:Water supporter recently dug out one of our old t-shirts. Little did she know that t-shirt would mean so much more to her today.
A few years back my husband and I attended a Jars of Clay show in Tennessee at the charming Franklin Theater. That night I bought a tee shirt at the Blood:Water table. The proceeds from the shirt helped support their work toward ending the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa. Printed across the front of the shirt were the words, “I know someone.”
Not too long after that night my husband and I started the process to adopt from Ethiopia. We loved the people, the culture and the food. (Okay, maybe the food’s just me). More than that, though, our hearts were broken by the overwhelming number of children growing up without the love of a family. At first, we thought we’d like to adopt an infant, but before our paperwork was complete, we opened up to 0-2 years. We were open to some minor special needs, but we were young, inexperienced, lacking in finances, and a long list of more excuses. Don’t get me wrong, what’s right for one family isn’t always right for another, but we hadn’t really looked at our options or educated ourselves on the possibilities.
Thankfully, through the online adoption community, I got to take a peek into other adoptive families’ lives. Some kids came home at six months, some at 10 years. Some kids had severe learning disabilities, and some were spelling bee champs. There were kids with Down syndrome, autism, attachment disorders, and some who were HIV-positive. I began to realize something—there wasn’t a single child among them that didn’t deserve a mom and dad, and there wasn’t a single one who I didn’t find absolutely wonderfully made. How could we possibly say no to such an amazing blessing? We began expanding our age parameters and special needs parameters.
One special need stuck out to us. HIV-positive. Could we afford the medication? What if we had other kids? What would be the risk of transmission? Because of the openness and honesty of other families, we realized a lot of our information was older than we were. Most of these kids weren’t sick. They were happy, healthy and living long, full lives. They can drink after family, swim with friends, and have sleepover parties. I’ve heard it called the “cheater special need,” and that’s the truth. Not to say that it will always be easy, but it’s manageable. Even for a couple of young, inexperienced and lacking in finances, people.
Just last week, I reached into my closet and pulled out that Blood:Water shirt. Tears filled my eyes as I realized all that had happened since the night I bought it. It was the first time I had worn it since my husband and I became parents. We’re now waiting to bring our son home from Ethiopia. He’s 4 years old, oh so handsome, and he’s HIV-positive.
We want to raise our son to be confident and proud of who he is. It is our hope that he, as well as our family, can be an advocate for HIV, and that we’ll see a cure within our lifetime. We are so thankful for organizations like Blood:Water that are working to eradicate HIV and AIDS, and the stigmas that surround it, as well as spreading hope and awareness through their efforts.
“I know someone,” and he’s my son.
*Author requested to remain anonymous.